Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Seven Black Priests

If you’ve ever wondered who would win in a fight between Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, this story answers your question.

Presumably, this tale takes place after the pair escaped death on the sunken island of Simorgia.  Their ship having washed ashore somewhere in the White Wastes, the two set out on foot.  Presumably heading south, they are forced to fight their way through a gauntlet of seven black priests.  As usual, they invite much of the following trouble by happening upon a sacred object in the shape of a large clear gemstone.  The gemstone, the eye of a god, is naturally cursed, and the longer Faf and Grey hang onto the thing, the more it affects them, until finally the Mouser is forced to fight Fafhrd in order to save him from the mystic clutches of the artifact.  The fight is largely a draw, and only ends when the Grey Mouser defeats the powerful monster by using that tried and true old method of poking out its eye.  Thus freed from the spell, Fafhrd laughs off the event and the two resume their long trek towards Lankhmar.
This is a clear post-pulp story.  It does feature the fast action and light atmosphere of pulp-era fantasy –the prolonged fight set on a tilted sea of frozen green ice would fit right at home in the pulps (or a Michael Bay movie) – but the two protagonists lack the sense of heroism and virtue that most pulp heroes possess.  They are but two wandering adventurers plundering temples, fighting priests, and walking away relatively unscathed but no richer for their troubles.  They do murder a fetal-god intent on wiping out humanity, but that arises not out of a desire to protect humanity, but out of a desire to protect their own skins.  By stealing the eye of the god, they also fall into the god’s trap, and in this manner the impending birth of the fetal-god is at least partially their own fault.
This is not necessarily a complaint. This is merely an observation. 
After all, not every story needs a moral element, and sometimes it’s fun to read a story about two wandering adventurers. Most of the action oriented TV shows of the 1980s used this narrative framing device to good effect, after all.  Provided the bad guys get their comeuppance in the end, and in Swords Against Death, that comeuppance has occurred like clockwork, then the reader can at least be assured that Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser’s love of adventure has a happy ending for Nehwon, even if it does not for the dynamic duo themselves.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe how many times I've used this same setup in my campaigns. All you have to do is know that one thing my player(s) cannot resist and they'll go for it every time, even though they know it is likely a trap.

    Look, magic (weapon)
    Look, new spell
    Look, unknown beverage in a magical container

    Mine! and Click goes the trap.

    It is almost enough to make me feel guilty. And I owe it all to Fritz Leiber.
    Bless you, old man.