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Mouser 5-8

*Chapter Eight*
Glipkerio Kistomerces ordered tapers lit while the sunset glow still flared in his lofty sea-footed banquet hall. Yet the beanpole monarch seemed very merry as with many a giggle and whinnying laugh he assured his grave, nervous councillors that he had a secret weapon to scotch the rats at the peak of their insolent invasion and that Lankhmar would be rid of them well before the next full moon. He scoffed at his wrinkle-faced Captain General, Olegnya Mingolsbane, who would have him summon troops from the outlying cities and towns to deal with the furry attackers. He seemed unmindful of the faint patterings that came from behind the gorgeously figured draperies whenever a lull in the conversation and clink of eating tools let it be heard, or of the occasional small, hunchbacked, four-footed shadow cast by the tapers’ light. As the long banquet went its bibulous course, he seemed to grow more merry and carefree yet — _fey_, some whispered in their partners’ ears. But twice his right hand shook as he lifted his tall-stemmed wine glass, while beneath the table his ropy left fingers quivered continuously, and he had doubled his long skinny legs and hooked the heels of his gilded boots over a silver rung of his chair to keep his feet off the floor.
Outdoors the rising moon, gibbous and waning, showed small, low, humped shapes moving along each roof-ridge of the city, except those on the Street of the Gods, both the many temples of the Gods _in_ Lankhmar and the grimy cornices of the temple of the Gods _of_ Lankhmar and its tall, square bell-tower which never issued chimes.
* * * *
The Gray Mouser scuffed moodily up and down the pale sandy path that curved around the grove of perfumy closet trees. Each tree was like a huge, upended, hemispherical basket, its bottom and sides formed by the thin, resilient, closely-spaced branches which, weighted with dark green leaves and pure white blooms, curved widely out and down, so that the interior was a single bell-shaped, leaf-and-flower-walled room, most private. Fire-beetles and glow-wasps and night-bees supping at the closet flowers dimly outlined each natural tent with their pale, winking, golden and violet and pinkish lights.
From within two or three of the softly iridescent bowers already came the faint murmurings of lovers, or perhaps, the Mouser thought with a vicious stab of the mind, of thieves who had chosen one of these innocent and traditionally hallowed privacies to plot the night’s maraudings. Younger or on another night, the Mouser would have eavesdropped on the second class of privacy-seekers, in order to loot their chosen victims ahead of them. But now he had other rats to roast.
High tenements to the east hid the moon, so that beyond the twinkling twilight of the closet trees, the rest of the Plaza of Dark Delights was almost gropingly black, except where some small dim sheen marked store or stand, or ghostly flames and charcoal glow showed hot food and drink available, or where some courtesan rhythmically swung her tiny scarlet lantern as she sauntered.
Those last lights mightily irked the Mouser at the moment, though there had been times when they had drawn him as the closet bloom does the night-bee and twice they had jogged redly through his dreams as he had sailed home in _Squid_. But several most embarrassing visits this afternoon — first to fashionable female friendlets, then to the city’s most titillating brothels — had demonstrated to him that his manhood, which he had felt so ravenously a-leap in Kvarch Nar and aboard _Squid_, was limply dead except — he first surmised, now rather desperately hoped — where Hisvet was concerned. Every time he had embraced a girl this disastrous half-day, the slim triangular face of Hisvin’s daughter had got ghostily in the way, making the visage of his companion of the moment dull and gross by comparison, while from the tiny silver dart in his temple a feeling of sick boredom and unjoyful satiety had radiated through all his flesh.
Reflected from his flesh, this feeling filled his mind. He was dully aware that the rats, despite the great losses they had suffered aboard _Squid_, threatened Lankhmar. Rats were deterred even less than men by numerical losses and made them up more readily. And Lankhmar was a city for which he felt some small affection, as of a man for a very large pet. Yet the rats menacing it had, whether from Hisvet’s training or some deeper source, an intelligence and organization that was eerily frightening. Even now he could imagine troops of black rats footing it unseen across the lawns and along the paths of the Plaza beyond the closet trees’ glow, encircling him in a great ambush, rank on black rank.
He was aware too that he had lost whatever small trust the fickle Glipkerio had ever had in him and that Hisvin and Hisvet, after their seemingly total defeat, had turned the tables on him and must be opposed and defeated once again, just as Glipkerio’s favor must be re-won.
But Hisvet, far from being an enemy to be beaten, was the girl to whom he was in thrall, the only being who could restore him to his rightful, calculating, selfish self. He touched with his fingertips the little ridge the silver dart made in his temple. It would be the work of a moment to squeeze it out point-first through its thin covering of skin. But he had a dread of what would happen then: he might not lose only his bored satiety, but the juice of all feeling, or even life itself. Besides, he didn’t want to give up his silver link with Hisvet.
A tiny treading on the gravel of the path, a very faint rutching that was nevertheless more than that of one pair of footsteps, made him look up. Two slim nuns in the black robes of the Gods _of_ Lankhmar and in the customary narrow, jutting hoods which left faces totally shadowed were approaching him, long-sleeved arm in arm.
He had known courtesans in the Plaza of Dark Delights to adopt almost any garb to inflame the senses of their customers, new or old, and capture or recapture their interest: the torn smock of a beggar girl, the hose and short jerkin and close-cropped hair of a page, the beads and bangles of a slave-girl of the Eastern Lands, the fine chain mail and visored helmet and slim sword of a fighting prince from those same areas of Nehwon, the rustling greenery of a wood nymph, the green or purplish weeds of a sea nymph, the prim dress of a schoolgirl, the embroidered garb of a priestess of any of the Gods _in_ Lankhmar — the folk of the City of the Black Toga are rarely or never disturbed by blasphemies committed against such gods, since there are thousands of them, and easily replaced.
But there was one dress that no courtesan would dare counterfeit: the simple, straight-falling black robes and hood of a nun of the Gods _of_ Lankhmar.
And yet…
A dozen yards short of him, the two slim black figures turned off the path toward the nearest closet tree. One parted its rustling, pendant branches, black sleeve hanging from her arm like a bat’s wing. The other slipped inside. The first swiftly followed her, but not before her hood had slipped back a little, showing for an instant by a wasp’s violet pulse the smiling face of Frix.
The Mouser’s heart leaped. So did he.
As the Mouser arrived inside the bower amid an explosion of dislodged white blooms, as if the tree herself were throwing flowers to welcome him, the two slim black figures faced around toward him and dropped back their hoods. The same as he had last seen it aboard _Squid_, Frix’s dark hair was confined by a silver net. The smile still curved her lips, though her gaze was distant and grave. But Hisvet’s hair was itself a silver-blonde wonder, her lips pouted enticingly, as if blowing him a kiss, while her gaze danced all over his person with naughty merriment.
She moved toward him a step.
With a happy roaring shout only he could hear, blood rushed through the Mouser’s arteries toward his center, reviving his limp manhood in a mere moment, as a magically summoned genie offhandedly builds a tower.
The Mouser imitated his blood, rushing blindly to Hisvet and clapping his arms around her.
But with a concerted movement like a half-circling in a swift dance, the two girls had changed places, so that it was Frix he found himself embracing, and with cheek pressed to cheek, for at the last moment she had swayed her head aside.
The Mouser would have disengaged himself then, murmuring courteous and indeed almost sincere excuses, for through her robe Frix’s body felt slimly enticing and most interestingly embossed, except that at that instant Hisvet leaned her head over Frix’s shoulder and, tipping her elfin face sideways, planted her half-parted lips on the Mouser’s mouth, which instantly began to imitate that of the industrious bee sipping nectar.
It seemed to him that he was in the Seventh Heaven, which is reserved for only the most youthful and beauteous of the gods.
When at last Hisvet removed her lips from his, keeping her face so close that the fresh scar Cat’s Claw had made was a blue-edged pink ribbon from magnificent nostril to velvet-rounded slender jaw, it was instantly to murmur to him, “Rejoice, delicious Dirksman, for you have kissed with your own the actual lips of a Demoiselle of Lankhmar, which is a familiarity almost beyond imagining, and you have kissed _my_ lips, an intimacy which passeth all understanding. And now, Dirksman, embrace Frix closely whilst I preoccupy your eyes and solace your face, which is truly the noblest area of the skin, the very soul’s vizard. It is demeaning work for me, to be sure, as if a goddess should scrub and anoint with oil a common soldier’s dirty boot, yet know that I do it right gladly.”
Meanwhile Frix’s slim fingers were unbuckling his ratskin belt. With the faintest slither and tiniest double _thunk_, it slipped with Scalpel and Cat’s Claw to the springy close-cropped turf bleached almost white by the closet tree’s perpetual shade.
“Remember, your eyes on _me_ only,” Hisvet whispered with the faintest yet firmest note of reproach. “I remain unjealous of Frix only so long as you disregard her utterly.”
Though the light was still velvet soft, it seemed brighter inside the closet tree’s bower than without. Perhaps the gibbous moon had risen. Perhaps the glimmer of the nectar-supping fire-beetles and glow-wasps and night-bees was concentrated here. A few of them circled lazily inside the bower, winking on and off like flirtatious gem moons.
The Mouser clapped his arms more tightly around Frix’s slim waist, meanwhile murmuring to Hisvet, “Oh, White Princess … Oh, icy directress of desire … Oh, frosty goddess of the erotic … Oh, satanic virgin…” as she all the while planted tiny kisses on his eyelids and cheeks and free ear, and raked them with the long silvery lashes of her blinking eyes, so that the plant of love was tenderly cultivated and grew and grew. The Mouser sought to return these favors, but she stopped his mouth with hers. As his tongue caressed her teeth, he noted that her two center front incisors were somewhat overlarge, but in his infatuated state this difference seemed only one more point of beauty. Why even if Hisvet turned out to have some of the appurtenances of a dragon or a giant white spider — or a rat, for that matter — he would love and cosset them each and all. Even if there lifted over her head from behind the joint-masted white moist sting of a scorpion, he would honor it with a loving kiss — well, he mightn’t go quite so far as that, he decided abruptly … still and on the other hand, he almost might, for at that instant Hisvet’s eyelashes tickled the ridge of skin over the silver dart in his temple.
This was ecstasy indeed, he assured himself. It seemed to him that he was now in the Ninth and topmost Heaven, where a few select heroes luxuriate and dream and submit themselves to almost unendurable pleasures, at whiles glancing down with lazy amusement at all the gods toiling at their sparrow-watching and incense-sniffing and destiny-directing on the many tiers below.
The Mouser might never have known what happened next — and it might have been a direly different happening too — if it had not been that, never satisfied even with the most supreme ecstasy, he decided once more to disobey Hisvet’s explicit injunction and steal a glance at Frix. Up to this moment he had been obediently disregarding her with eye and ear, but now it occurred to him that it would twist the launching cords of the catapult of pleasure a notch tighter if he observed both faces of his — after a fashion — two-headed light-of-love.
So when Hisvet once again nuzzled his outside ear with her slender pink and blue tongue and while he encouraged her to keep at it with small twistings of his head and moanings of delight, he rolled his eyes in the other direction, gazing surreptitiously at the face of Frix.
His first thought was that she had her neck bent at an angle that could hardly be anything but uncomfortable, to keep her head quite out of the way of the Mouser’s and her mistress’. His second thought was that although her cheeks were passionately inflamed and her perfumy breath was panting through her yawn-slack lips, her gaze was coolly sad, distantly melancholy, and fixed on something worlds away, perhaps a chess game in which she and the Mouser and even Hisvet were less than pawns, perhaps a scene from an unimaginably remote childhood, perhaps —
Or perhaps she was watching something a little closer than that, something behind him and not quite worlds away —
Although it discourteously took his ear away from Hisvet’s maddening tongue, he rolled his whole head in the direction he had his eyeballs and glancing over shoulder saw, blackly outlined against the pale pulsating wall of closet-blooms, the edge of a crouching silhouette with half-outstretched arm and something gleaming blue-gray at the end of that.
Instantly the Mouser crouched himself, rudely drawing back from Frix, and then half spun around, flailing out backhanded with his left hand which had an instant earlier embraced Hisvet’s maid.
It was a blow barely in time and of necessity imperfectly aimed. As the back of his left fist crashed against the lean wrist of the ocher hand holding the knife, he felt the sting of its point in his forearm. But then his right fist smashed into the Mingol’s face, stirring it at least for a moment from its taut-skinned impassiveness.
As the snugly black-clad figure staggered backward under the impact, it seemed to divide in two, like some creature of slime reproducing itself, as a second dagger-armed Mingol circled from behind the first and moved toward the Mouser, who was snatching up his belt and its pendant scabbards with a curse, drawing his dirk Cat’s Claw, because the pommel of that weapon came first to his hand.
Frix, who still stood dreamily in her black draperies, was saying in a husky, faraway voice, “Alarums and excursions. Enter two Mingols,” while behind her Hisvet was exclaiming petulantly, “Oh, my accursed, spoilsport father! He always ruins my most aesthetic creations in the realms of delight, whether from some vile and most unfatherly jealousy, or from — ”
By now the first Mingol had recovered and the two rushed warily toward the Mouser, flickering their knives ahead of their slit-eyed yellow faces as they came in. The Mouser, Cat’s Claw poised a little ahead of his chest, drove them back with a sudden swishing swing of his belt held in his other hand. The weighted scabbard of his sword Scalpel took one of them in the ear, so that he winced in pain. Now would be the time to leap forward and finish them — with a single dagger-thrust apiece if he were lucky.
But the Mouser didn’t. He had no way of knowing that these Mingols were the only two, or whether Hisvet and Frix might not leave off their playacting — if it had been altogether that — and leap upon him with knives of their own as he attacked his lean black assassins. Moreover, his left arm was dripping blood and he could not yet tell how bad that wound was. Finally, it was being borne in reluctantly on his proud mind that he was faced with dangers which might be a mite too much for even his great cunning, that he was blundering about in a situation he did not wholly understand, that he had even now, drunken-sensed, risked his very life against an admittedly unusual ecstasy, that he dared not depend longer on fickle luck, and that — especially in the absence of brawny Fafhrd — he badly needed wise counsel.
In two heartbeats he had turned his back on his assailants, darted past a somewhat startled-looking Frix and Hisvet, and burst out through the branchy wall of the closet-bower amidst a second and even larger explosion of white blooms.
Five heartbeats more and as he scurried north across the Plaza of Dark Delights in the light of the new-risen moon, he had buckled on his belt and withdrawn from a small pouch pendant on it a bandage which he began deftly to wrap tightly about his wound.
Five more heartbeats and he was hastening through a narrow cobbled alleyway that led in the direction of the Marsh Gate.
For he had decided that, much as he hated to admit it to himself, the time had come when he must venture across the treacherous, malodorous Great Salt Marsh and seek the advice of his sorcerous mentor, Sheelba of the Eyeless Face.
* * * *
Fafhrd spurred his tall gray mare south through the burning streets of Sarheenmar, since no road led around that city fronted by the Inner Sea and backed by desert mountains. Through those latter dry, craggy hills the only trail led east to the land-locked desert-girt Sea of Monsters, by which stood the lonely City of Ghouls, avoided by all other men.
It was smoke-clouded night and the sole light was that of the flames gushing in streamers and roaring sheets from the roofs, doors, and windows of buildings once noted for their coolness, firing their thick walls of dried-clay bricks to red heat and a beauteous, rippling porcelain-like gloss where they did not melt and topple entirely.
Though the wide street was empty, Fafhrd’s bloodshot eyes were watchful in his haggard, smoke-stained, sweat-rivuleted face. He had loosened his sword in its scabbard and his short-ax in its wide sheath, strung his Mingol bow and held it ready in his left hand, and slung the quiver of its arrows high behind his right shoulder. His lightened saddlebag and half-full canteen thumped against his mount’s ribs, while his flat pouch, still empty except for the ridiculous tin whistle, flapped about.
For a wonder the mare was not panicked by the fire all around. Fafhrd had heard that the Mingols, by stark-real tests, inured their horses to all manner of horrors almost as sternly as they did themselves, slaying without mercy those who still quailed on the seventh attempt of a beast or the second of a man.
Yet now Fafhrd’s mount suddenly stopped dead, just short of a narrow side street, snorting her lathered nostrils and glaring her great eyes more wild and bloodshot than Fafhrd’s. Heel-thuds on her ribs would not put her in again, so Fafhrd dismounted and began to drag her forward by brute force down the center of the smoke-swirled, flame-walled street.
Then there came rushing from around the burning corner ahead what looked at first glance to be a gang of exceptionally tall and skinny red-litten skeletons, each wearing a skimpy harness and brandishing in either bony hand a short tapering double-edged needle-pointed sword.
After an instant’s shock, Fafhrd realized these must be Ghouls, whose flesh and inner organs, he had heard — with much skepticism, but now no longer — were transparent except where the skin became sallowly or rosily translucent on the genital organs and on the lips and small breasts of their women.
It was said also that they ate only flesh, human by preference, and that it was strange indeed to watch the raw gobbets they gulped course down and churn within the bars of their ribs, gradually turning to mush and fading from sight as their sightless blood assimilated and transformed the food — granting that a mere normal man might ever have opportunity to watch Ghouls feast without becoming a supply of gobbets himself.
Fafhrd was filled with dread, but also indignation, that he, clearly a neutral in a Ghoul-Sarheenmart-Mingol war, should be thus ambushed — for now the leading skeleton hurled his right-hand sword and Fafhrd had to weave swiftly aside as it came cartwheeling through the smoky air.
Whipping his hand over shoulder, he set arrow to bow and dropped the foremost Ghoul with a shot that transfixed his ribs just to the left of his breastbone. Somewhat to his surprise, he discovered that having a skeleton for foe and target made it easier to aim for a vital part. Now as the Ghouls approached closer, uttering horrendous war-shrieks, he noted the flame-light glinting here and there from their gassy hides and realized that even counting their flesh as solid, they were an exceptionally skinny, though rangy, folk.
He brought down two more of his charging foes, the last with a dart into a black eye socket, then dropped his bow, whirled out short-ax and sword, and made a long lunge with the latter as the four remaining Ghouls, their speed unchecked, were upon him.
Graywand took a Ghoul under the chin, jolting him to a dying stop. It was weird to see the skeleton collapse without rattle of bone. The short-ax next licked out, decapitating another enemy, whose glassy-fleshed skull went spinning off, but whose torso, louting forward, drenched the Northerner’s ax-hand with invisible, warm, silky fluid.
These grisly events gave the third Ghoul time to run around his stricken comrades and get in on Fafhrd a thrust which, fortunately coming from above, glanced off his left ribs without wounding him deeply.
The long smarting sword-slice, however, turned Fafhrd’s indignation wholly to fury and he smote that Ghoul so deeply in the skull that the short-ax stuck and was jerked from Fafhrd’s hand. His fury became an almost blinding red rage, not lacking sexual undertones, so that when he noted that the fourth and last Ghoul carried pale breasts on her white ribs like two roses pinned there, he knocked the weapons from her hands with short disarming sword-swipes as she came darting toward him; then as she faltered stretched her full-length on the road with a left-handed punch to her jaw.
He stood panting, closely eyeing the scattered skeletons for sign of movement — there was none — and glaring all about for evidence of other parties of Ghouls. None also.
The horror-inured gray mare had hardly shifted an iron-shod hoof during the melee. Now she tossed her gaunt head, writhed back her black lips from her huge teeth and whinnied snickeringly.
Sheathing Graywand, Fafhrd knelt warily by the female skeleton and pressed two fingers into the invisible flesh under the hinges of her jaw. He felt a slow pulse. Without ceremony he hoisted her by the waist. She weighed a little more than he anticipated, so that her slenderness surprised him as did also the resilience and smooth texture of her invisible skin. Cold-headedly leashing his hot vengeful impulses, he dumped her over his saddlebow so that her legs dangled on one side and her trunk on the other. The mare glared back over shoulder and again lip-writhingly bared her yellowish teeth, but did no more than that.
Fafhrd bandaged his wound, rocked his hand-ax from its bony trap and sheathed it, gathered up his bow, mounted the mare and cantered on down the fire-fenced street through the wreaths of smoke and swirls of stinging sparks. He was constantly peering for more ambushes, yet glancing down once he found himself disconcerted that there should appear to be a bare white pelvic girdle on his saddlebow, just a fantastically-finned large loose bony knot to the eyes, even though hitched on either side by misty sinews and other cloudy gristle to the balance of a skeleton. After a bit he slung his strung bow over her left shoulder and rested his left hand on the slim warm invisible buttocks, to reassure himself there was a woman there.
* * * *
The rats were looting by night in Lankhmar. Everywhere in the age-old city they were pilfering, and not only food. They filched the greenish bent brass coins off a dead carter’s eyes and the platinum-set nose, ear and lip jewels from the triply locked gem chest of Glipkerio’s wraith-thin aunt, gnawing in the thick oak a postern door neat as a fairy tale. The wealthiest grocer lost all his husked Hrusp nuts, gray caviar from sea-sundered Ool Plerns, dried larks’ hearts, strength-imparting tiger meal, sugar-dusted ghostfingers, and ambrosia wafers, while less costly dainties were untouched. Rare parchments were taken from the Great Library, including original deeds to the sewerage and tunneling rights under the most ancient parts of the city. Sweetmeats vanished from beside tables, toys from princes’ nurseries, tidbits from gold-inlaid silver appetizer trays, and flinty grain from horses’ feedbags. Bracelets were unhooked from the wrists of embracing lovers, the pouches and snugly-flapped pockets of crossbow-armed rat watchers were picked, and from under the noses of cats and ferrets their food was stolen.
Ominous touch, the rats gnawed nothing except where it was needful to make entries, they left no dirty, clawed tracks or fluted toothmarks, and they befouled nothing, but left their dark droppings in neat pyramids, as if taking an absent owner’s care for a house they might decide to occupy permanently.
The most cunning traps were set, subtle poisons laid out invitingly, rat-holes stoppered with leaden plugs and brazen plates, candles lit in dark corners, unwinking watch kept in every likely spot. All to no avail.
Shiversomely, the rats showed a human sagacity in many of their actions. Of their few doorways discovered, some looked sawed rather than gnawed, the sawed-out part being replaced like a little door. They swung by cords of their own to dainties hung from ceilings for safety, and a few terrified witnesses claimed to have seen them hurling such cords over their hanging places like bollas, or even shooting them there attached to the darts of tiny crossbows. They seemed to practice a division of labor, some acting as lookouts, others as leaders and guards, others as skilled breakers and mechanics, still others as mere burden-bearers docile to the squeak of command.
Worst of all, the humans who heard their rare squeakings and chitterings claimed they were not mere animal noises, but the language of Lankhmar, though spoken so swiftly and pitched so high that it was generally impossible to follow.
Lankhmar’s fears grew. Prophecies were recalled that a dark conqueror commanding a countless horde of cruel followers who aped the manners of civilization but were brutes _and wore dirty furs_, would some day seize the city. This had been thought to refer to the Mingols, but it could be construed as designating the rats.
* * * *
Even fat Samanda was inwardly terrorized by the depredation of the overlord’s pantries and food lockers, and by a ceaseless invisible pattering. She had all the maids and pages routed from their cots two hours before dawn and in the cavernous kitchen and before the roaring fireplace, big enough to roast two beefs and heat two dozen ovens, she conducted a mass interrogation and whipping to quiet her nerves and divert her thoughts from the real culprits. Looking like slim copper statues in the orange light each shaven victim stood, bent, knelt or lay flat before Samanda, as directed, and endured her or his artistically laid-on welting, afterwards kissing the black hem of Samanda’s skirt or gently patting her face and neck with a lily-white towel, chilled with ice water and wrung out, for the ogress plied her whip until the sweat trickled down from the black sphere of her hair and dripped in beads from her mustache. Slender Reetha was lashed once more, but she had a revenge by slipping a fistful of finely ground white pepper into the icy basin when she returned the towel to it; true, this resulted in a quadrupling of the next victim’s punishment, but when one achieves revenge, the innocent perforce suffer.
The spectacle was watched by a select audience of white-smocked cooks and grinning barbers, of whom not a few were needed to shave the palace’s army of servants. They guffawed and giggled appreciatively. It was also observed by Glipkerio from behind curtains in a gallery. The beanpole overlord was entranced and his aristocratically long nerves as much soothed as Samanda’s — until he noted in the kitchen’s topmost gloomy shelves the hundreds of paired pinpoints of the eyes of uninvited onlookers. He raced back to his well-guarded private chambers with his black toga flapping like a sail torn loose in a squall from a tall-masted yacht. Oh, he thought, if only Hisvin would work his master spell! But the old grain-merchant and sorcerer had told him that one planet was not quite yet in the proper configuration to reinforce his magic. Events in Lankhmar had begun to look like a race between some star and the rats. Well, if worse came to worst, Glipkerio told himself, at once giggling and panting in his swirly flight, he had an infallible way of escaping from Lankhmar and Nehwon too, and winning his way to some other world, where he would doubtless quickly be proclaimed monarch of all or at any rate an ample principality to begin with — he was a very reasonable overlord, Glipkerio felt — and thereby have some small solace for the loss of Lankhmar.

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