As unmoved by this prodigy as by the thunder-stroke, Fafhrd bellowed above the storm toward the doorway, his voice sounding tiny to himself in his thunder-smitten ears, “Hear me, witch, wizard, nightgaunt, whatever you are! I shall never in my life enter again the foul city which has stolen from me my dearest and only love, the incomparable and irreplaceable Vlana, for whom I shall forever grieve and for whose unspeakable death I shall forever feel guilt. The Thieves’ Guild slew her for her freelance thieving— and we slew the slayers, though it profited us nothing at all.”
“Likewise I shall never lift foot toward Lankhmar again,” the Gray Mouser took up from beside him in a voice like an angry trumpet, “the loathy metropolis which horribly bereft me of my beloved Ivrian, even as Fafhrd was bereft and for similar reason, and left me loaded with an equal weight of sorrow and shame, which I shall bear forever, even past my perishing.”Want to make wizards laugh? Tell them your plans.
In this case, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are leaving Lankhmar on a green pilgrimage - self-imposed exile, never to return. Their loves from Swords and Deviltry lay buried, along with most of the Theives' Guild that killed them. As they leave the city's gate, a walking hut follows them, taunting the adventurers that they must return to Lankhmar. After years of adventures, and another encounter with a different meddling wizard, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser have seen and done it all. Bored out of their minds, they return to Lankhmar.
"The Circle Curse" serves as a bridge between "Ill Met in Lankhmar" in Swords and Deviltry and "The Jewels in the Forest." At the end of "Ill Met in Lankhmar," the youths Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser slaughter the Thieves' Guild in revenge for their murdered loves. After the deed is done, they flee the city. "The Circle Curse" picks up as soon as they leave the gates, tying up loose ends. The catalog of adventures and lands serves to explain the air of easy expertise the adventurers show in "The Jewels in the Forest." And the pair's boredom explains why they're back in Lankhmar. Time might not heal all wounds, but it can dull them.
I wouldn't go so far to say that "The Circle Curse" could be skipped; it does fill a continuity gap. But it is another example of the dreaded travelogue in fantasy, a tour through the author's worldbuilding. Fortunately, Leiber works through it in mere pages, where today's authors might require books. Think of it as the boys' boot camp, where youths become men. Like an appetizer, the story's true purpose is to prepare the palate for the course to come.