Swords and Ice Magic

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Swords and Ice Magic is a book by Fritz Leiber.

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


The Sadness of the Executioner

Death has to fill his quota, in order to satisfy the Lords of Necessity. Most of those on his list are straightforward to dispatch, except when terminating the existence of the gentle, cat-loving Overlord of Lankhmar (see the end of The Swords of Lankhmar) he admitted to himself that he had to cheat. The last four, however, are more challenging, for some reason.

Lithquil, the Mad Duke of Ool Hrusp, is killed by a participant in a gladiatorial combat that he is watching; in an unprecedented act, one of the fighting ghouls deliberately throws an axe straight at him, embedding it in his forehead. Gorex of Horborixen is easily done away with by a subtle alteration of his body humours.

The final element of list are "two heroes". So, thinks he, about time I finally got hold of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. For the first, Death teleports one of the berserkers in the gladiatorial combat at which Lithquil has just died at into the presence of Fafhrd, who at this moment is performing his morning callisthenics. A silly move, because it doesn't take Fafhrd long to finish him off.

At the same time, one of the exotically-adorned and -tattooed slave girls in the harem of the King of Horborixen is teleported into the presence of the Gray Mouser. She is clad scantily but lethally in a pair of breast-cups with poisoned needles attached to the nipples. The Mouser is disconcerted at the thought of sharp things being pointed at him, so jumps aside as they are loosed. They miss him. He quickly overpowers her, has his way with her and thus subdues her.

The pair do not worry too much about the implausibility of the magical materialisation of their would-be assassins. The berserker's body is easy enough to dispose of, while the slave girl sets herself up in the jewellery industry.

As for Death, he has to pick two other heroes and personally dispatch them a heartbreaking lack of subtlety before his deadline (no pun intended) has expired.

Beauty and the Beasts

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are following (and arguing over) an intriguing woman half-black (on her right-hand side) and half-white (on her left). They follow her into an alley where they are set upon by a pair of warriors, one black and one white. Our heroes kill them, as by now one would expect. The bodies vanish. Expressing bewilderment, our heroes go to the Golden Lamprey to drink black stout and pale sparkling wine.

Trapped in the Shadowland

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser have been seeking Kreeshkra and Reetha, and are lost in the desert, short of water and dying of thirst. Death extends a corner of the Shadowland to where they are so that they would enter that land. The heroes are not entirely pleased about this, for although they are no longer under the hot desert sun, they are still lost. However, Mouser has a compass-needle, pointing them to where South is, and in that direction they make their way.

Death keeps having to extend his kingdom so as to keep the pair inside his realm, which is more and more a trial, until at length they are outside the walls of Lankhmar, where they meet Sheelba and Ningauble. The latter pair suggest they abandon their quest for Kreeshkra and Reetha, and instead go and visit Frix and Hisvet, magicking them so as to make this possible.

At the end of a pleasant week each, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are returned to Lankhmar, where they meet up again and compare experiences.

The Bait

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser wake up to see a beautiful naked demonic sprite. The pair immediately decide to fight for her, but instead of each other, they each have to fight a demon. They each dispatch their demon, and all their visitors vanish.. The conversation of the pair reveals that they each unaccountably recall each other's dream. They conclude that this is yet another ruse by Death to answer his overdue summons.

Under the Thumbs of the Gods

Nostalgic about their past loves, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are discussing their relative charms and shortcomings over much drink. There are three gods eavesdropping: Kos, Issek and Mog. All three decide that Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser have not invoked their names or their powers for far too long.

For some reason the pair decide to leave the hostelry via the kitchen door. This does not lead to where they expect, though - it leads into a labyrinth, in which they each encounter all their past lovers, in reverse order: Hisvet and Frix, Kreeshkra and Reetha, the Queens of the Sea to start with. Each pair express to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser that they are unwanted. No matter, our pair are untroubled.

The three gods are disappointed by their insouciance, and continue to conjure up visions of their lost loves. Ivivis and Friska, Keyaira and Hirriwi, Lessnya and Ilala, Ivlis and Freg, Fraleg and Fro ... Fafhrd has time to reflect on the "Fr" motif of the names of most of his lovers, while the Mouser considers the same with respect to "Iv".

Thence come Vlana and Ivrian, and then Mara, Atya, Hrenlet, Ahura, Alyx the Picklock ... finally Nemia of the Dusk and the Eyes of Ogo. No, that would never do, suggests Issek - the two are the enemies of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser from the start.

But not so. For want of anything better to do, Nemia of the Dusk and the Eyes of Ogo spend a satisfying and pleasurable evening and (one presumes) night cheering up our two by now somewhat woebegone heroes. Such is their delight that Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser invoke the names of Kos, Issek and Mog, to the satisfaction of all.

Trapped in the Sea of Stars

On a sailing voyage, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser sail right round the Planet of Nehwon, all the time philosophizing as to its nature.

The Frost Monstreme

Into the Silver Eel, where Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are drinking, come two handsome warrior women hunting for heroes to hire. The predictable happen, and our heroes find themselves hired by Afreyt and Cif, of Rime Isle. The latter island is threatened by a horde of Sea Mingols who are about to attack it with a view to conquest.

Meanwhile, Khahkht, a powerful Mingol shaman, is watching from above, looking to thwart their efforts.

Three months later, our heroes have each assembled a band of warriors, and is each sailing North through icebound seas to Rime Isle, expecting to meet up halfway. Yes, it is very cold. Khahkht intercepts messages between the two heroes, and makes the attempt, by altering their messages, to provoke a destructive fight between them. This does not work. The next thing to try is to make it even colder. That doesn't work either.

Then comes the Frost Monstreme - a ship peopled entirely by frost monsters. This nearly does cause the destruction of the two ships. But fortunately, the port of Salthaven on Rime Isle is there. Volcanic activity on that island keeps it warm, and the Frost Monstreme can not prevail.

Rime Isle

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser arrive at Rime Isle to find themselves in a strange situation. Afreyt and Cif are not acting at the direct behest of the town council of Salthaven. The prevailing attitude is that there is nothing to fear from the Sea Mingols. Therefore our heroes, complete with a small army each, are not entirely welcome. Unless they pay their way, of course.

The rest of the story relates how Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and the armies they have assembled, provide the requisite resources to turn the attitude of the islanders, and defeat the peril. During the course of this, they become the avatars of Odin and Loki, both of whom have appeared on the island themselves.

Having (exhaustingly) achieved their aim, and also something of a social conscience (happens when you're commanding men), Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser decide to settle in Rime Isle.