Ill Met in Lankhmar
by Fritz Leiber

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1970

collected in —
Swords and Deviltry
Ship of Shadows
The Leiber Chronicles

Ill Met in Lankhmar February 2011


Fritz Leiber's Contents-page teaser for "Ill Met in Lankhmar":

The second and decisive meeting of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, wherein something is told of the ills of unending night-smog and organized thievery, of the drunkenness and vanity of beloved men and girls, and of the many wonders and horrors of the City of Sevenscore Thousand Smokes.
in Swords and Deviltry
and Ill Met in Lankhmar

As bravos but also rather determined free spirits, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser consider the Thieves' Guild in the city of Lankhmar to be dangerously well organized, indeed so powerful as to constitute almost an unofficial or shadow government within Lankhmar. This is not, however, an incentive for the two young men to join the Thieves' Guild; rather to hone their wits against it, if not always cushion themselves with healthful prudence.

"Ill Met in Lankhmar" is a novella in Fritz Leiber's great fantasy series, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. This story chronologically follows their separate introductions in "The Snow Women" and "The Unholy Grail", respectively. The two have come to Lankhmar only recently, and this story introduces us to exotic and noisome Lankhmar, and the two young heroes strikingly to each other.

Moments after their encounter as inadvertent allies in a thoughtful and daring ambush of two Thieves' Guild men on dark Cash Street, the two young heroes remain at the ready:

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser faced each other across the two thieves sprawled senseless. They were poised for attack yet for the moment neither moved.

Each discerned something inexplicably familiar in the other.

Fafhrd said, "Our motives for being here seem identical."

"Seem? Surely must be!" the Mouser answered curtly, fiercely eyeing this potential new foe, who was taller by a head than the tall thief.

"You said?"

"I said, 'Seem? Surely must be!'"

"How civilized of you!" Fafhrd commented in pleased tones. ... "To care, in the eye of action, exactly what's said," Fafhrd explained.

Precisely. Amidst wondrous places with fascinating characters, in the plotted storm of imaginative adventure, Fritz Leiber never fails to write thoughtfully and well, and very often evocatively and beautifully. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are quite bright and observant, and their quick and subtle perception makes them ideal participants in (and our guides to) Leiber's world of Nehwon.

In addition to the doubt-skulked and danger-stalked streets of Lankhmar city, "Ill Met in Lankhmar" offers a couple of beautifully realized settings: the Mouser's hideaway for his girl Ivrian, a tenement attic made lush with stolen carpets, drapes, and other finery; and the headquarters of the Thieves' Guild, with its deceptive always-open door and fascinating rooms within.

A fine story, and deepens its flavor on re-readings. Its necessary sequel, published twenty-seven years earlier, is "Thieves' House".


© 2011 Robert Wilfred Franson

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Thieves' House

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