"There were two writers of the earlier generation whose literary standards and skills, whose talent and sensibility they (new wave wirters) still admired. One was Phillip K. Dick. The other was Fritz Leiber, whose masterly prose and urbane wit continued to outshine our callow talents. We revered him. We still do."
Drawing themes from Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, and H.P Lovecraft, master manipulator Fritz Leiber is a worldwide legend within the fantasy genre, actually coining the term "Sword and Sorcery" that describes the sub-genre he helped create. Before Lord of the Rings took the world by storm, Leiber's fantastic but thoroughly flawed anti-heroes, Fafhrd and Gray Mouser, adventured and stumbled deep within the caves of Inner Earth as well, albeit a different one. They wondered and wandered to the edges of the Outer Sea, across the Land of Nehwon and throughout every nook and cranny of gothic Lankhmar, Nehwon's grandest and most mystically corrupt city. Lankhmar is Leiber's fully realized vivid incarnation of urban decay and civilization's corroding effect on the human psyche. Fafhrd and Mouse are not innocents; their world is no land of honor and righteousness. It is a world of human complexities and violent action, of discovery and mystery, of swords and sorcery.
With Swords Against Wizardry, the fourth installment of the Lankhmar series, the story unveils behind the curtain in the Witch's Tent. Fafhrd and Gray Mouser are there to consult a sorceress who holds the secret to their escape but when would they ever need to escape Would they need this knowledge when they journey to Stardock Where is there to escape up there No doubt the icy seduction of "the cruel one", with her greed for both gore and graciousness, could offer them several ways out. Their luck has been good so far; one way out should work. Their luck continues as thieves. They are the best thieves in Lankhmar until better positions arise: The Lords of Quarmall. Gray Mouser and Fafhrd steal a kingdom within a hill and declare themselves Lords.
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April 01, 1986
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Excerpt from Swords Against Wizardry by Fritz Leiber
: IN THE WITCH'S TENT
The hag bent over the brazier. Its upward-seeking gray fumes interwove with strands of her downward dangling, tangled black hair. Its glow showed her face to be as dark, jagged-featured, and dirty as the new-dug root-clump of a blackapple tree. A half century of brazier heat and smoke had cured it as black, crinkly, and hard as Mingol bacon.
Through her splayed nostrils and slack mouth, which showed a few brown teeth like old tree stumps irregularly fencing the gray field of her tongue, she garglingly inhaled and bubblingly expelled the fumes.
Such of them as escaped her greedy lungs tortuously found their way to the tent's saggy roof, resting on seven ribs downcurving from the central pole, and deposited on the ancient rawhide their tiny dole of resin and soot. It is said that such a tent, boiled out after decades or preferably centuries of use, yields a nauseous liquid which gives man strange and dangerous visions.
Outside the tent's drooping walls radiated the dark, twisty alleys of Illik-Ving, an overgrown and rudely boisterous town, which is the eighth and smallest metropolis of the Land of the Eight Cities.
While overhead there shivered in the chill wind the strange stars of the world of Nehwon, which is so like and unlike our own world.
Inside the tent, two barbarian-clad men watched the crouching witch across the brazier. The big man, who had red-blond hair, stared somber-eyed and intently. The little man, who was dressed all in gray, dropped his eyelids, stifled a yawn, and wrinkled his nose.
"I don't know which stinks worse, she or the brazier," he murmured. "Or maybe it's the whole tent, or this alley muck we must sit in. Or perchance her familiar is a skunk. Look, Fafhrd, if we must consult a sorcerous personage, we should have sought out Sheelba or Ningauble before ever we sailed north from Lankhmar across the Inner Sea."
"They weren't available," the big man answered in a clipped whisper. "Shh, Gray Mouser, I think she's gone into trance."