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Swords in the Mist : Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser Book 3
Drawing many of his own 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 would more than help create. Swords in the Mist, book three in the Lankhmar series, thrusts our indentured sword-swinging servants into the question of hate, its power and its purpose. You see it happens to be lean times in Lankhmar, illuminating that link between money and love. Luckily, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser don't always believe in love. When Lankhmar gets too gritty, our travelers take to their other, less harsh mistress, the Sea. But the Sea can play tricks on men, and so can the Sea King. He can break a man or worse yet, curse him. But when he's away it's all play for the formidable swordsmen and the Triple Goddess ... and two luscious sea queens. But luck may not always be there as they discover on the way to Ningauble, their wizard employer. After a long journey in defense of their control over their own fates, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouse find themselves pawns in a life and death chess game, all of Lankhmar being the pieces. How many pawns will be left on the board before someone wins?
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July 24, 2004
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Excerpt from Swords in the Mist by Fritz Leiber
THE CLOUD OF HATE
Muffled drums beat out a nerve-scratching rhythm and red lights flickered hypnotically in the underground Temple of Hates, where five thousand ragged worshipers knelt and abased themselves and ecstatically pressed foreheads against the cold and gritty cobbles as the trance took hold and the human venom rose in them.
The drumbeat was low. And save for snarls and mewlings, the inner pulsing was inaudible. Yet together they made a hellish vibration which threatened to shake the city and land of Lankhmar and the whole world of Nehwon.
Lankhmar had been at peace for many moons and so the hates were greater. Tonight, furthermore, at a spot halfway across the city. Lankhmar's black-togaed nobility celebrated with merriment and feasting and twinkling dance the betrothal of their Overlord's daughter to the Prince of Ilthmar, and so the hates were redoubled.
The single-halled subterranean temple was so long and wide and at the same time so irregularly planted with thick pillars that at no point could a person see more than a third of the way across it. Yet it had a ceiling so low that at any point a man standing tall could have brushed it with his fingertips -- except that here all groveled. The air was swooningly fetid. The dark bent backs of the hate-ensorcelled worshipers made a kind of hummocky dark ground, from which the nitre-crusted stone pillars rose like gray tree trunks.
The masked Archpriest of the Hates lifted a skinny finger. Parchment-thin iron cymbals began to clash in unison with the drums and the furnace-red flickerings, wringing to an unendurable pitch the malices and envies of the blackly enraptured communicants.
Then in the gloom of that great slit-like hall, dim pale tendrils began to rise from the dark hummocky ground of the bent backs, as though a white, swift-growing ghost-grass had been seeded there. The tendrils, which in another world might have been described as ectoplasmic, quickly multiplied, thickened, lengthened, and then coalesced into questing white serpentine shapes, so that it seemed as if tongues of thick river-fog had come licking down into this sub-cellar from the broad-flowing river Hlal.
The white serpents coiled past the pillars, brushed the low ceiling, moistly caressed the backs of their devotees and source, and then in turn coalesced to pour up the curving black hole of a narrow spiral stairway, the stone steps of which were worn almost to chutelike smoothness -- a sinuously billowing white cylinder in which a redness lurked.