This volume offers up some of the best of the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser canon, mature stories rich with the distinctive characters we identify with Leiber's creations.
The Cloud of Hate" (1963 Fantastic)
"Lean Times in Lankhmar" (1959 Fantastic)
This just might be the very best story of the whole lot. Fafhrd and Mouser split up and the former finds religion and the latter finds excess. Both really we see fall head over heels into new pursuits, compulsions which are not good for anyone. Fahrd's faith is really zealotry and Mouser's dissolution with food and drink demolishes his skills. Eventually they are of course drawn back together in what is arguably the funniest finale in all of sword and sorcery storytelling.
"Their Mistress, the Sea" (1968 first publication)
After the former story they go to sea to find renew themselves as proper heroes and whatnot.
"When the Sea-King's Away" (1960 Fantastic and Swords and Sorcery, ed. L. Sprague DeCamp and The Mighty Barbarians)
The duo find weird romance beneath the waves in a strange and dangerous lair beneath the waves. This is a stunner as they peculiar and compelling women they encounter are nearly the death of our heroes. Truly a memorable romp.
"The Wrong Branch" (1968 first publication)
Our heroes lose their way in a cave and end up on Earth. Newhon is nowhere to be found.
Adpept's Gambit (1947 Night's Black Agents collection)
One of the truly oddball Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories is set on Earth in the past around the city of Tyre. This story was in actuality an attempt by Leiber to fit Fafhrd and Mouse into the Lovecraftian cycle as a recent rediscovery of the the original text amply demonstrates. After adjusting to the world and details of Newhon to find our heroes on the historical Earth with associated references is very weird, almost jarring. But traveling to other dimensions is well within their wheelhouse. The story sets our heroes on a proper quest after magical objects. It's a strange one indeed.
From this collection it's clear that the canon of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser came together with some effort. Fitting in all the various aspects was a chore, especially the famous "Adpet's Gambit". The stories went a different direction after than one and trying to make it fit in after the fact without substantial revision seems noble but ultimately I'm not sure it comes off as it ought. Part of me wishes Leiber had revised it as a more straightforward Newhonian adventure.
More to come next week.