Home of the Thieves Guild, Thieves' House stands on Cheap Street between the Street of Thinkers and the Street of the Gods across from Death Alley and backed by Murder Alley. Its front door is ever-open and always lit.
The front entrance is however guarded by thieves in a hidey-hole above the door inside as well as a trap door in the floor somewhat along the hallway. All other exits are guarded. There is at least one on an alley and there is a roof-hatch. The guild also keeps members stationed along the street and roof-tops who communicate with whistles. In the story, Thieves House, the Gray Mouser says that there is a third exit, not including the roof hatch.
The building itself is a labyrinth of passages and rooms some of which are no longer used and have been long forgotten even by the thieves that live there.
Thieves' HouseIn one street rather narrower and more silent than the rest–Cheap Street, its name–a square yellow torchlight shone from a wide doorway in a vast and rambling house of stone. There was something ominous in a single open door in a street where all other doors were barred against the darkness and damp. People avoided this street at night. And there was reason for their fear.
In Ill Met in Lankhmar, Leiber's account of Thieves' House depicts a fairly straight-forward layout. Each of five floors has a central hallway leading from the front to back, starting with the first floor and the front entrance leading straight back to the end of the hallway where a spiral staircase goes up and connects with each floor. Along the hallway on each floor are various doors at intervals. The fifth-floor hallway has a roof-hatch about midway through. This is a very straightforward layout.
In Thieves' House however, the building is described as a labyrinth of the unknown. Take the Gray Mouser's remark to Fafhrd:
“… They don’t know all of Thieves’ House, their own place. It’s a maze of the unknown, a labyrinth of forgotten history. …” Further in the story, the Mouser leads the thieves of the guild on a merry chase through their own house:
Thieves' HouseThe Gray Mouser knew the layout of Thieves’ House—not as well as the palm of his hand, but well enough—and he led Fafhrd along a bewildering route. They careened around stony angles, sprang up and down small sets of steps, two or three each, which made it difficult to determine which level they were on.
The description of the straight-forward layout in one story and the characterization of the house as a labyrinth in the other don't mesh. For both descriptions to be true, either some of the undescribed doors would have to lead to hallways, some rooms would have to have other exits, or there would have to exist secret doors–or all of the above.
Ill Met in LankhmarClearly in view across Cheap Street was a wide, low, open doorway, framed by grimy stone blocks. There led up to it two steps hollowed by the treadings of centuries. Orange-yellow light spilled out from bracketed torches inside. They couldn’t see very far in because of Death Alley’s angle. Yet as far as they could see, there was no porter or guard in sight, nor anyone at all, not a watchdog on a chain. The effect was ominous.
Ill Met in LankhmarTwo gaunt, scarred, exceptionally ugly faces, each topped by a gaudy scarf binding back hair, looked down at them from a big, deep niche just above the doorway and helping explain its lowness. Two bent, gnarly arms thrust down the swords that still pricked them.
Ahead was a long, straight, high-ceilinged corridor ending in a stairs and with doors spilling light at intervals and wall-set torches adding their flare, but empty all its length.
In one room young boys were being trained to pick pouches and slit purses.
In a second room, from which pushed air heavy with the reeks of metal and oil, older student thieves were doing laboratory work in lock picking.
In a third, thieves were eating at long tables. The odors were tempting, even to men full of booze. The Guild did well by its members.
In a fourth, the floor was padded in part and instruction was going on in slipping, dodging, ducking, tumbling, tripping, and otherwise foiling pursuit. These students were older too.
The second floor duplicated the first, but was as luxurious as the other had been bare. Down the long corridor lamps and filigreed incense pots pendant from the ceiling alternated, diffusing a mild light and spicy smell. The walls were richly draped, the floor thick-carpeted.
The first door, wide open, showed an untenanted room full of racks of garments, rich and plain, spotless and filthy, also wig stands, shelves of beards and such, and several wall mirrors faced by small tables crowded with cosmetics and with stools before them. A disguising room, clearly.
Ill Met in LankhmarIt was a large room, empty so far as could be told of human and animal life, but filled with most interesting things. From knee-height up, the entire far wall was a map of the city of Lankhmar and its immediate surrounds. Every building and street seemed depicted, down to the meanest hovel and narrowest court. There were signs of recent erasure and redrawing at many spots, and here and there little colored hieroglyphs of mysterious import.
The floor was marble, the ceiling blue as lapis lazuli. The side walls were thickly hung, by ring and padlock. One was covered with all manner of thieves’ tools, from a huge thick pry-bar that looked as if it could unseat the universe, or at least the door of the Overlord’s treasure-vault, to a rod so slim it might be an elf-queen’s wand and seemingly designed to telescope out and fish from distance for precious gauds on milady’s spindle-legged, ivory-topped vanity table; the other wall had on it all sorts of quaint, gold-gleaming and jewel-flashing objects, evidently mementos chosen for their oddity from the spoils of memorable burglaries, from a female mask of thin gold, breathlessly beautiful in its features and contours, but thickly set with rubies simulating the spots of the pox in its fever-stage, to a knife whose blade was wedge-shaped diamonds set side by side and this diamond cutting-edge looking razor-sharp.
All about were tables set chiefly with models of dwelling houses and other buildings, accurate to the last minutia, it looked, of ventilation hole under roof gutter and ground-level drain hole, of creviced wall and smooth. Many were cut away in partial or entire section to show the layout of rooms, closets, strongrooms, doorways, corridors, secret passages, smoke-ways, and air-ways in equal detail.
In the center of the room was a bare round-table of ebony and ivory squares. About it were set seven straight-backed but well-padded chairs, the one facing the map and away from the Mouser and Fafhrd being higher backed and wider armed than the others—a chief’s chair, likely that of Krovas.
Ill Met in LankhmarThe two richly clad thieves slowed at the seventh doorway and looked in. Their progress ceased altogether. Their necks strained, their eyes widened. They visibly paled. Then of a sudden they hastened onward, almost running, and bypassed Fafhrd and the Mouser as if they were furniture. The incantory voice drummed on without missing a beat.
Each has a straight corridor like the first and second floors, fed to by the spiral staircase at the back of the house. The fifth has a roof-hatch about midway down the hall.