Muffled drums beat out a nerve-scratching rhythm, and red lights flickered hypnotically in the underground Temple of Hates, where five thousand ragged worshipers knelt and abased themselves and ecstatically pressed foreheads against the cold and gritty cobbles as the trance took hold and the human venom rose in them.
The drumbeat was low. And save for snarls and mewlings, the inner pulsing was inaudible. Yet together they made a hellish vibration which threatened to shake the city and land of Lankhmar and the whole world of Nehwon.
An archpriest, five thousand worshippers, and four bravos take on Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in this tale of murderous hate. The cult of Hates is not happy, as there has been peace in Lankhmar for many months. And to top it off, the daughter of the Overlord is betrothed to the Prince of Ilthmar. Hate manifests itself as a hovering cloud floating across Lankhmar on a mission to smother the life out of the happy wedding party.
In what would otherwise be a straightforward story about a monstrous entity rampaging across a city with only our heroes to stop it–only the monstrous entity is not so straightforward, but an ectoplasmic manifestation all the hate of five thousand people–we find our heroes in a philosophical mood. They talk about their easy-come, easy-go wealth, but more seriously about the nature of their free lifestyle versus the life of serving others. When the cloud comes, their freewill will be put to the test.
In this story, we also find a great example of Fritz Leiber’s outstanding ability to paint a picture with a great economy of words. In one passage the Gray Mouser lists all the various odors he can smell in the Lankhmar fog, and in the process, the author brings the entire city of Lankhmar to life in less than sixty-five words for the reader.
The Mouser said dryly, “I already smell dead fish, burnt fat, horse dung, tickly lint, Lankhmar sausage gone stale, cheap temple incense burnt by the ten-pound cake, rancid oil, moldy grain, slaves' barracks, embalmers' tanks crowded to the black brim, and the stink of a cathedral full of unwashed carters and trulls celebrating orgiastic rites–and now you tell me of a taint!”
The strong wine of Tovilyis has a high sugar content.
Gis, Glipkerio Kistomerces, Gnarlag of the Two Swords, Harsel, Innesgay Kistomerces, Kreshmar, Movarl, Skel, Tres.
Inner Sea, Land of Lankhmar, River Hlal.
Guild of the Grain Merchants.
Gold, Electrum, Letters of Credit on the Guild of Grain Merchants.
The Rat’s Nest, Rainbow-lanterned Palace, Temple of Hates.
Street of the Gods.
Black-clad police of Lankhmar.