I was about 13 years old in 1984 when Dio released “The Last In Line” and I first heard the title track. It was a record that profoundly affected this young teenager, connecting my love of rock music to my passion for fantasy roleplaying. It was in that year that I first had the dreams of Mykovnia, the imaginary world that was to haunt my nights for many years. Still, on occasion, even all these years on, I still dream of that fantastic world.
“We’ll know for the first time if we’re evil or divine. We’re the last in line.”Dio, “The Last In Line”, 1984
Growing up as I did in an atheist family, devoid of spiritual roots, I think that Ronnie James Dio and the other rock musicians of that era were instrumental in opening my eyes to the greater reality of our world. Or perhaps, as some more cynical folks I have known over the years have suggested, it was a gateway to opening my imagination only. Honestly, I don’t really perceive much difference between the two.
I tell you this so that you can understand the roots of the fantasy world of Mykovnia, founded as they are in the lyrics of numerous rock tracks as much as from anything else. But this is not merely the edgy aesthetic of the metal scene rubbing off on a teenager and being nostalgically repurposed.
This was a transportation of the imagination to a subcreated reality, rising from deep within my psyche. Mykovnia is perhaps what Jung would have termed a connection to the collective unconscious. I would simply say, as Tolkien suggested, that it is part of our human heritage as created beings to seek to subcreate in turn.
Mykovnia has haunted me for 40 years and the time has come to revisit it.
“In the land of the lost horizon
Where the queen lies dark and cold
And when the stars won’t shine
Then the story’s told
When the world was milk and honeyDio, “Egpyt (The Chains Are On)”, 1984
And the magic was strong and true
Then the strange ones came
And the people knew
That the chains were on
That the chains were on”
I can’t really be sure what blend of ideas gave rise to the imaginative portal in my mind leading to Mykovnia – for, as esoteric and pompous as this might sound, that’s what it feels like to me when I dream of this world. But whenever I hear Dio’s “Egypt (The Chains Are On)”, I am reminded of that place. Perhaps it’s the album art, but the sense of demonic menace in the idea of the “strange ones” is strong.
When I think of Mykovnia, I can see the great and terrifying Dark Lord upon his black charger, riding against those who would stand against him. It’s a strange sensory blend of the “Death Dealer” by Frazetta – another strong influence on my conception of the fantastic – and the images conjured when I hear Dio singing Rainbow’s “Stargazer” from 1976. Mingled with it all are the darkest emotions from within: fear, doubt, insecurity.
“There’s no sun in the shadow of the wizard
See how he glides, why he’s lighter than air?
Oh I see his face!
Where is your star?Rainbow, “Stargazer”, 1976
Is it far, is it far, is it far?
When do we leave?
I believe, yes, I believe”
I think that, as I sit here 40 years later, the world is calling to be realised. Mykovnia calls out to be summoned into reality through the arcane wizardry of words. The medium is the gloriously enduring roleplaying game and I want to conjure it into a form that invites others to explore. The discovery of the fantasy realm that I dreamt is somehow a pathway to catharsis as well as a rich well from which to draw out all of my deepest fascinations.
And so we begin.
The world was blackened by fire and the inhabitants of its long civilisation had long since been destroyed, turned to dust and scattered across the cold wilderness. But alone upon the face of this forgotten realm stood the gate. It was a doorway we were destined to open and when we set foot upon that dark encrusted land, we felt something stir. It was as if the magic of that world was alive and, as it sensed our arrival, it summoned forth from somewhere long quiet an evil to meet us at that lonely portal. We were doomed from the first moment we arrived.