Dusk deepened. After a much longer bit, the Mouser said in a low, broken voice, “O Sheelba, great magician, grant me a boon or else I shall go mad. Give me back my beloved Ivrian, give me her entire, or else rid me of her altogether, as if she had never been. Do either of those and I will pay any price you set.”
In a grating voice like the clank of small boulders moved by a sullen surf, Sheelba said from his doorway, “Will you faithfully serve me as long as you live? Do my every lawful command? On my part, I promise not to call on you more than once a year, or at most twice, nor demand more than three moons out of thirteen of your time. You must swear to me by Fafhrd’s bones and your own that, one, you will use any stratagem, no matter how shameful and degrading, to get me the Mask of Death from the Shadowland, and that, two, you will slay any being who seeks to thwart you, whether it be your unknown mother or the Great God himself.”I've been dragging my feet on this story for a while. Like "The Circle Curse," this is more connective tissue than a story, filling in continuity gaps required to explain the events of the next story. In this case, it explains the relationship between Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and the wizards Ninguable and Sheelba. It also finally frees Fafhrd and the Mouser from their mourning over their murdered first loves. There's more story to "The Price of Pain-ease" than "The Circle Curse," as Fafhrd and the Mouser are haunted by the actual ghosts of their lost loves. In an attempt to free them, the adventurers make deals with Ninguable and Sheelba; they would retrieve the Mask of Death from the Shadowlands in exchange for their girls' lives. But, as usual for their adventures, Fafhrd and the Mouser get the thorns, and not the roses.
"Thereafter Sheelba and Ningauble, showing no gratitude whatever, or remorse for their childish revenges, insisted on exacting from the Mouser and Fafhrd the utmost service established by the bargain they had set with the two heroes."
"For a fourth, they habitually stole all their possessions, even their swords and daggers, which they always named Graywand and Heartseeker and Scalpel and Cat’s Claw, no matter how often they lost them and pilfered replacements."Rather than carrying special named swords, any sword and dagger wielded by Fafhrd or the Gray Mouser becomes Graywand and Heartseeker or Scalpel and Cat’s Claw. It is a rare take on the idea of named weapons that might be unique to Leiber's works. Where other heroes might mourn the loss of their named weapon, Fafhrd and the Mouser will just steal another Graywand or Scalpel.