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Swords Against Wizardry

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Swords Against Wizardry is a book by Fritz Leiber.

It is the fourth in the canonical series concerning Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

Contents

In the Witch's Tent

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are consulting a witch (the archetypal disgustingly ugly and smelly old hag), for the reason that it is prudent to do something of the kind before undertaking a major enterprise.

They are planning on climbing Stardock, the highest (or at least, the most notorious) mountain in Nehwon, as there are rumours of treasure at the top.

It turns out they're not the only ones with that idea, as they are attacked, and barely escape (as usual). They believe their attacker was one Gnarfi, whom the pair know as a competitor in trade.

And so the stage is set for the next episode.


Stardock

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are climbing Stardock, a beautiful and challenging mountain in the Cold Wastes. Fafhrd claims to know the area and its mountains well. His father perished on White Fang. They discuss Gnarfi and Kranach, another pair of rogues who are also attempting to climb this mountain.

During the climb they are accompanied by Hrissa, an ice-cat. It is an eventful climb, and they are beset by various fauna, including a giant white fur-covered snake. Hrissa does her part in fighting off the inimical wildlife.

Finally they reach a place near the top, where they are welcomed into a cave, in which dwell the invisible rulers of this realm. They have already upset Prince Faroomfar, but find romantic solace with his sisters Hirriwi and Keyaira. Apparently the race of people up here need the seed of heroes from below to continue their race.

But they get kicked out of bed after a day and a night, and have the rest of the climb to finish. This they do without too much trouble, but this time without Hrissa, who has stayed inside (and may well have originated from Hirriwi and Keyaira in the first place).

At the top of the mountain they encounter their enemies Gnarfi and Kranach, and embark on the usual mayhem. The invisible dwellers of the mountain also get in on the act, and as a result of all this boisterous behaviour, our two heroes (along with Hrissa, who has reappeared to warn them of the invisible army) are tipped off the mountain. But all is not lost, as Keyaira and Hirriwi (mounted on an invisible flying beast of some kind) rescue the two of them and set them down safely on the ground at the base of the mountains.

And our heroes have come away with a profit: each has a pouch filled with gems so precious that they are visible only in darkness.


The Two Best Thieves In Lankhmar

Having found themselves in possession of a pouchful each of invisible gems from Stardock, they now need to fence them.

Fafhrd chooses Nemia, an older lady who is a fence of some repute, who does her business in semi-darkness, Fafhrd believes that this may be for vanity's sake; he's not too concerned, being partial to older women. On the other hand, Mouser prefers Blind Ogo, which is appropriate because the latter will not be able to see that the gems are invisible. The fact that he has a teenage girl helper, the Eyes of Ogo, might of course have something to do with it - Mouser is already on record as being partial to barely-ripe fruit.

Ogo and Nemia are neighbours, so it is predictable that our pair of heroes are going to meet and compare notes. Hence they are able to commiserate with each other when they discover that they have been cunningly robbed. Ogo does not exist, while the Eyes of Ogo and Nemia are lovers who congratulate each other on their cleverness and the stupidity of all men.

Penurious once more, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are now about to take up service with two princes of Quarmall: Mouser with Gwaay and Fafhrd with Hasjarl.


The Lords of Quarmall

(This story originates in a ten thousand word fragment by Harry Otto Fischer in 1936, who was a colleague of Fritz Leiber.)

Gwaay and Hasjarl are the feuding heirs apparent of Quarmal, who is currently Lord of Quarmall, a spookily decadent underground realm on many levels. Both Gwaay and Hasjarl are mad with hate for the other, and are trying to terminate each other's existence so they may inherit. Quarmal is concerned at this, as in his eyes neither son of his is worthy of inheriting.

Quarmall itself is feared and shunned by the above-ground dwellers of Nehwon, and for good reason - they are prone to being abducted and set to work as slaves to maintain and expand the tunnel complex.

Unbeknown to each other, Gwaay and Hasjarl have employed the services of the Gray Mouser and Fafhrd respectively in the forthcoming climax to their ongoing war.

But it is Quarmal who has the last laugh, by feigning his own death and funeral pyre. The two feuding sons both perish, after much entertaining mayhem, including a beautifully-staged mock battle between Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser (who obviously recognise each other and glory in the farce) and a slave revolt. Quarmal himself has another heir on the way.

Still, it is prudent for both our heroes to escape while they are in favour, as there is no guarantee that they themselves will not be pressed into tunnel maintenance service.