Oddly enough, I had never read any of these D&D-formative stories, though I enjoyed the write-ups of the characters in the 1st edition Deities & Demigods. I picked up Vol I of White Wolf’s published compilation a couple years ago, but didn’t get a chance to read it before it went into storage. Now that I’m receiving some of my stuff, I stuck it in my suitcase for my New York trip a couple weeks ago.
Here’s the thing. The author Fritz Leiber, had been writing F&GM stories since 1939. This book (Lankhmar: Talkes of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser Volume 1) contains their origin stories and the story of their first adventure together, which Leiber wrote in 1962 and 1970. So their very first book in the series, the one intended (I assume) to showcase Lieber’s stories to those who’ve never read him, skips twenty years of Lankhmar stories that made the characters popular, and instead went with their origin stories.
So most of the book is Fafhrd, or the Gray Mouser, but not so much Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. And their first adventure together basically amounts to them taking vengeance on the thieves’ guild and then fleeing the city of Lankhmar, never to return (but of course they do, as the previously-published stories all take place after these origin tales). Rather than giving me the earlier stories that grabbed everyone’s attention about these cool characters and location, we learn backstory, when (as 20 years of books proves) the backstory wasn’t what was selling the books in the first place. Sorta like a publisher in the future getting the rights to republish an obscure little world called “Middle-Earth” and their first book is The Silmarillion, which isn’t the best story in the series. :p
Anyway, the stories were an entertaining read. Nothing too exciting (which is why I want to read the earlier ones that actually grabbed everyone’s attention) but worth reading.
One bit I particularly liked was a spell cast by Mouse (in his origin story, before he becomes the Gray Mouser), as he was for a time apprenticed to a White Magic sorcerer. He has to evade some people who want to kill him, so he hides in the forest and chants this little bit to confuse his pursuers and cover his trail:
“North be south. East be west. Copse be glade and gully crest. Dizziness all paths invest. Leaves and grasses, do the rest.”
Now I’m not much for rhyming magic, having seen far too much of it done very poorly, but I dig that.