The sixth book in the series is again a collection of short stories and a novella.
Publication year: 1997 (1973-1977 for the stories)
Page count: 330 + an excerpt of Swords against the Shadowlands by Robin Wayne Bailey (has anyone read that?)
Publisher: White Wolf Publishing
The collection starts with six rather short pieces which don’t really offer any twists and not much adventure, either. Basically, our heroes are chasing girls. But the last, and the longest story, is mostly adventuring and the most worth reading.
The Sadness of the Executioner: Death needs to make his quota and sets his eye on Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. He sends an executioner for each, rather than just striking them down dead, so that the heroes have a chance against them.
Beauty and the Beasts: On the streets of Lankhmar City, the Twain are following an alluring girl (who, surprisingly, isn’t naked) whose one side is black and the other white. While following her, the Mouser and Fafhrd are arguing which one of them should have her.
Trapped in the Shadowland: The heroes are looking for their previous lovers. Instead the two find themselves in the desert, dying of thirst. They can just glimpse a cooler side but that is Shadowlands, Deaths domain. And Death wants them badly. Enough to do some serious magic.
The Bait: The most straightforward short story: The Mouser and Fafhrd awake finding a naked young girl standing between their beds. Each wants to have her first but strange warriors appear.
Under the Thumbs of the Gods: Issek, Mog, and Kos aren’t happy with our heroes who have worshipped, or pretended to worship, them for a short while and then abandoned them. Now, they want revenge and they do it in the forms of the girls whom the heroes have previously loved.
Trapped in the Sea of Stars: Our heroes have been sailing and nude girls forming from mist are trying to lure them either to their deaths or back home. Mouser waxes philosophical about Nehwon’s laws of nature which he apparently invents on the spot.
The Frost Monstreme: Two beautiful girls find Fafhrd and the Mouser in a bar, bored out of their skulls. The girls claim to need heroes to guard their legendary home, the Rime Isle, from a fleet of Mingol pirates and their leader, the evil sorcerer Khahkht. They give the heroes plenty of gold for hiring more men like themselves but are whisked away by an icy sorcerous wind. Fafhrd immediately seizes the opportunity for action and hurries off to find ten more Northern berserkers. Mouser is a bit slower but in the end also goes to look for ten fighter-thieves. They agree to meet in a middle of ocean near the legendary sea port. But getting to the port is harder than they thought.
Rime Isle: Fafhrd, the Mouser, and their hand-picked heroes have arrived to the Rime Isle but immediately things take unexpected turn: the town people haven’t hired any mercenaries and haven’t heard about a threating Mingol Fleet. However, the Mouser and Fafhrd get secret messages from the girls that they want to meet in secret. The adventure includes various twists and two gods which have been worshipped in our lands.
While reading this one, I wasn’t sure if I’m going to continue with the series. (I have the last two books.) But after the ending of “Rime Isle”, I’m curious to see what the duo will do next. However, I didn’t like the stories here nearly as much as the previous volumes. There’s just so much musing about how worthless and traitorous girls are that it’s not a nice read for me. There’s also less adventurous feel to the stories. Perhaps Leiber could have explored other countries from which we sometimes only know the names. On the other hand, in the last two tales our heroes are maturing; they’re becoming leaders of men rather than lone vagabonds. We’ll see if that trend continues.
Still, I think this is the weakest book so far and not the place to start reading this series.