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Forgotten Stories
Fantastic Sword-fighters:
L. Sprague de Camp’s (ed.)
Warlocks and Warriors

by Andy Beau

From the 1940s to the 1990s L. (Lyon) Sprague de Camp (1907-2000) wrote many works of and about fantasy and science fiction. In the 1950s he was involved with the collection of the Conan stories in hardcover form, and with Lin Carter brought Conan to paperback for the mass market in the 60s. In the 1960s and 1970, he edited four anthologies that collected both old and new sword and sorcery stories and related fantasy tales. I’d like to review the last anthology, Warlocks and Warriors (1970), because it contains a wide range of 10 authors from the 1900s - 1960s. This and other anthologies provide a sampling of tales and writers some readers may not have read and present fiction by authors from whom readers may want to read more. Although not every story in this collection is sword and sorcery, I’ll still review them, as most are likely to appeal to fans of the genre.

The first tale is titled Turutal. It was written by Raul “Ray” Capella (1933- ) and published in Amra in 1965. Amra was the fanzine of the Hyborian Legion, a loose group of sword and sorcery admirers from the late 1950s into the 1980s, which included de Camp, Lin Carter, and others. I myself had a subscription to Amra, which may have made me a de facto member of the Hyborian Legion at the time (which I didn’t realize), or at least a groupie. This story is one of a series about Arquel of Argos, an adventurer living in the world of Conan. I don’t recall this series ever seeing mass-market publication; there were only stories published here and there. The Arquel stories were eventually collected in The Leopard of Poitain by Celt Press in 1985, which seems virtually impossible to find nowadays.

In this story, Arquel is coerced into leading a small band of defeated soldiers out of the swamps around the eastern part of the Styx River. Warriors from the Black Kingdom of Punt, along with a priest of Set, are close on their heels. During the night, as Arquel’s band sails into the actual river, they are forced to enter into legendary Turutal, a now-deserted citadel built upon an island in the middle of the river. Not until daylight the next day are they able to see the strangeness of their weird abode:

And Turutal stood mute, dark-blue spires and tiers jutting into the clear sky above, poised over the river that swept around its rocky base, like a fantastic ship stranded in the center of the current. There were no straight lines, no angles in Turutal. The citadel was a marvelous flow of curving lines that blended together: a maze of roof, courtyard, street, and span. Silence clothed it; … the eerie stronghold’s proportions were not built for a grown man. Catwalks were too narrow for the warriors; parapets reached only to their thighs. Small, arched doorways permitted the passage of a man if he were to bend and turn sideways…Its airy spans seemed fit only for an ape, and the minarets were no bulkier than a small tent. Adding to the unearthly effect was the fact that the entire structure seemed carved from one piece of dark-blue material tough as iron, rough and weatherworn as stone.

The tale then develops into a three-way battle in this weird fortress among: the scheming Stygian Setian and his sinister sorceries; Arquel and his warriors; and the citadel’s ancient living-dead horde of returned pygmy inhabitants.

The next story is Lin Carter’s (1930-1988) The Gods Of Niom Parma. Carter and de Camp brought the Conan stories to the mass-market in the 60s, which helped birth the sword and sorcery enthusiasm that continues today. Carter went on to write many more pastiches of several authors, write other stories in his own style, edit many anthologies of different types of fantasy adventure, and critique different fantasy and horror works. For further information, please see Howard Jones’s excellent remarks about Carter in the editorial in the first edition of the e-zine Flashing Swords. Like the previous story, The Gods Of Niom Parma was also first published in an edition of Amra, under the title The Gods of Neol-Shendis in 1966. This is one of Carter’s Simrana series of pastiches of Lord Dunsany’s style of fantasy, and, as such, would not be considered a sword and sorcery tale, but one that sword and sorcery fans would probably still enjoy (see below for an actual Dunsany tale). It relates a story of Simrana, a world of swordplay, adventure, and magic. Niom Parma is a seaside city dedicated to several gods, but its residents are turning away from these gods and towards new ones. This has angered the original gods, who meet to decide the fate of Niom Parma.

The gods of Niom Parma met on a mountaintop near the sea. Tremendous, fierce-eyed, robed in glory, they were come to decide the fate of the alabaster city. And when all were assembled upon the windswept peak under the burning stars, one rose from amongst them, even that Hathrib whom men worship with purple wine poured in ewers of silver, and he spake thus: ‘Brothers, we are met to unleash our wrath upon Niom Parma, which we builded beside the sea when all Simrana was young. Let us whelm and trample down the alabaster city, for its folk have turned from us and worship newer gods.' Then the Lord Shu lifted his eleven eyes and three arms in solemn agreement, even that Shu to whom men sing little songs of three notes only.

They decide to destroy the city upon the advice of one of their minor brethren, Uzolba, the little god of fishermen. They will stay their wrath until Uzolba returns from visiting Niom Parma in human guise. The story then tells of Uzolba’s earthly visit and his first view of humankind through the eyes of a human, and the resulting fate of Niom Parma and, indeed, of Uzolba himself.

Robert E. Howard’s (1906-1936) The Hills Of The Dead is the next tale. It was first published in Weird Tales in 1930. No introduction is needed for Robert E. Howard, who created sword and sorcery during the pulp magazine era between the world wars. This is one of the stories in the Solomon Kane series that Howard wrote before he began writing his famous Conan stories. Kane is an English Puritan during the late 16th century. He has traveled Europe, the Mediterranean area, and West Africa, righting wrongs whenever he encounters them. This tale occurs during his third journey to West Africa. After having receiving a fetish walking stick from a native witch doctor, Kane is traveling in the bare hills of West Africa when he encounters a young native woman who has run away from her village. For her safety, he agrees to escort her back, but it will soon be too dark to continue. As dusk approaches and Kane and the young woman begin to make camp, they are attacked:

As he looked, her eyes flared wide; the branches dropped from her arms, and her scream knifed the silence, fraught with terrible warning. Kane whirled on his knee. Two great forms loomed over him as he came up with the lithe motion of a springing leopard. The fetish stave was in his hand, and he drove it through the body of the nearest foe with a force which sent its sharp point out between the man’s shoulders. Then the long, lean arms of the other locked about him, and the two went down together. The talonlike nails of the stranger were tearing at his face, the hideous red eyes staring into his with a terrible threat, as Kane writhed about and, fending off the clawing hands with one arm, drew a pistol. He pressed the muzzle close against the savage’s side and pulled the trigger. At the muffled report, the stranger’s body jerked to the concussion of the bullet, but the thick lips merely gaped in a horrid grin.

Kane learns that these two attackers are part of a large mass of vampires that kill the local natives and live off their souls. Kane resolves to exterminate this gruesome example of “Satan’s handiwork” from the face of the earth!

The following story is Thunder In The Dawn by Henry Kuttner (1914-58). Please see my review of this tale and the others in the Elak series in my first column.

Fritz Leiber (1910-1992) wrote the next tale, Thieves’ House, in Unknown Worlds in 1943. Leiber was a famous science fiction and fantasy writer for five decades, producing many stories that either were nominated or won both the Hugo or Nebula science fiction awards over the years. Leiber also coined the phrase “sword and sorcery” to describe the genre. He wanted a phrase with the ring and feel similar to “cloak and dagger” and “blood and thunder” that were used to describe other types of stories.

This is one of the tales that Leiber wrote early in his career of the large barbarian Fafhrd and the smaller and quick Gray Mouser, two roguish adventurers on his ancient world of Nehwon (“nowhen” spelled backwards, and often misspelled as “Newhon,” as is the case in de Camps’s introduction to this story. I’ll assume it’s the typesetter’s fault, not de Camp’s, though.). In the city of Lankhmar, Fafhrd and Mouser are involved with members of the Thieves’ Guild in the theft of a jeweled skull and its bony skeletal hands. The Guild, however, double-crosses them and takes the skull and hands back to their guild house without paying Fafhrd and Mouser for services rendered. The two decide to sneak into the guild’s den and rob the robbers of the skull. Here is the scene where they approach the guild house in the dead of night.

…a faint warning whistle (from a lookout thief) came from somewhere down the street. It was repeated closer by and answered from inside the doorway. Then, from the same direction as the first whistle, came the tread of feet, growing louder. It sounded as if there were only one person, but the effulgence of light from the door showed that there was also a little man who walked softly, a little man clad in close-fitting garments of gray - tunic, jerkin, mouseskin cap and cloak. His companion was rangy and copper-haired, obviously a northern barbarian from the distant lands of the Cold Waste… As they entered the square of light before the doorway, a frown furrowed (Fafhrd’s) broad forehead.. His green eyes glanced quickly from side to side. Putting his hand on the little man’s shoulder, he whispered, “I don’t like the looks of this, Gray Mouser.”
“Tcha! The place always looks like this,” retorted the Gray Mouser sharply, his mobile lips sneering and dark eyes blazing. “They just do it to scare the populace. Come on, Fafhrd! We’re not going to let that misbegotten double-dealing Fissif escape after the way he cheated us.”
“I know all that, my angry little weasel,” the barbarian replied, tugging the Mouser back. “And the idea of Fissif escaping displeases me. But putting my bare neck in a trap displease me more. Remember. They whistled.”
“Tcha! They always whistle. They like to be mysterious. I know these thieves, Fafhrd. I’ve know them all my life… Come along.”

They enter the abode of the thieves and proceed to search for the skull. As they enter the room to steal the skull, a woman grabs it and escapes through a hidden doorway. As they try to open this door, the guild thieves enter the room. Fafhrd and Mouser quickly hide behind some curtains. Shortly thereafter, this ruse fails and the two are chased through a maze of hallways and rooms, eventually becoming separated. Mouser finally escapes but Fafhrd is captured. The guild thieves think that Mouser has the missing skull and threaten to kill Fafhrd if he doesn’t return it. Now Mouser has to get the skull from the woman who stole it AND rescue Fafhrd. The adventure that follows contains elements of humor, action, and horror. Mouser even appears in “hag drag” to fool everyone concerned! Also, the skull has sorcerous powers that come into play in a most horrifying way.

Black God’s Kiss is the next offering in the anthology. It was written by C. (Catherine) L. (Lucille) Moore (1911-1987) and published in Weird Tales in 1934. Jirel's stories are discussed in detail elsewhere on the site, in an excellent article by Ryan Harvey. Moore was the wife of another fantasy writer, Henry Kuttner, one of whose above-mentioned stories is also included in this anthology. They were probably one of the first married couples to collaborate on a number of science fiction and fantasy stories together. At this time, however, she had not yet met Kuttner.

This tale is part of a series about Jirel of Joiry, the redheaded female ruler of Joiry and commander of its medieval army. de Camp speculates that Joiry is in western France during the Hundred Years’ War, around the fourteenth century. Sort of a fantastical Joan of Arc, but one who survives to fight another day. In this story, her enemy, Guillaume, defeats and captures her in her castle. He adds insult to injury by holding her tight and forcibly kissing her lips.

(Guillaume) inflated his splendid chest and grinned at her from the depths of his jutting beard. “Come to me, pretty one,” he commanded. “I’ll wager your mouth is sweeter than your (curses).” Jirel drove a spurred heel into the shin on one guard and twisted from his grip as he howled, bringing up an iron knee into the abdomen of the other. She had writhed from their grip and made three long strides toward the door before Guillaume caught her. She felt his arms closing about her from behind and lashed out with both spiked heels in a futile assault upon his leg armor, twisting like a maniac, fighting with her knees and spurs, straining hopelessly at the ropes which bound her arms. Guillaume laughed and whirled her around, grinning down into the blaze of her yellow eyes. Then deliberately he set a fist under her chin and tilted her mouth up to his. There was a cessation of her hoarse curses. “By Heaven, that’s like kissing a sword blade,” said Guillaume, lifting his lips at last.

She is then thrown into the dungeon. However, she escapes and vows to avenge herself appropriately against Guillaume. To do this, she plans to travel to what she believes is Hell, from a secret subterranean entrance down in the bowels of her castle. Instead of the fiery domain of the devil, this “Hell” actually appears to be a weird, starlit, other-dimensional world. After encountering a number of strange beings, she obtains what she needs to exact her revenge. The story’s ending is one that is a surprise to Jirel, as well as to the reader.

Lord Dunsany (rhymes with “un-rainy”) (1878-1958) wrote the next entry in the anthology, Chu-Bu and Sheemish. It was originally published in London in the Saturday Review and in 1912 was reprinted in the book, Tales of Wonder. While Dunsany's style, and pacing are different from sword and sorcery, he greatly influenced many writers who followed him: Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Lin Carter, and even the editor of this anthology, L. Sprague de Camp, among others. Dunsany was the first to take novel-length heroic fantasy and fashion it into the short and very short story form. He also wrote several fantasy novels, but is probably better known for his fantasy short stories.

This very short four-page tale is one of many about his self-created gods and their very human-like emotions, and the consequences of such. Chu-Bu is a very minor god whose idol has been worshipped in his own temple for over a hundred years. However, one day his priests brought in a newly made idol, that of Sheemish, and commenced to worship it also. This infuriated Chu-Bu to the extreme.

The fury of Chu-Bu knew no time-limit: he was furious all that night, and the next day he was furious still. The situation called for immediate miracles. To devastate the city with a pestilence and kill all his priests was scarcely within his power; therefore, he wisely concentrated such divine powers as he had in commanding a little earthquake. “Thus,” thought Chu-Bu, will I reassert myself as the only god, and men shall spit upon Sheemish.” Chu-Bu willed it and willed it and still no earthquake came, when suddenly he was aware that the hated Sheemish was daring to attempt a miracle too. He ceased to busy himself about the earthquake and listened, or shall I say felt, for what Sheemish was thinking; for the gods are aware of what passes in the mind by a sense that is other than any of our five.

Thus begin the vindictive deeds and their dire consequences, albeit very localized, between these two jealous godlets.

Clark Ashton Smith’s (1893-1961) The Master Of The Crabs, published in Weird Tales in 1948, is the next offering in the anthology. Smith wrote many of his tales of weird horror/fantasy in ancient settings for Weird Tales magazine. See Ryan Harvey’s excellent series of reviews of Smith and his writings on the article page of this site. Smith had a number of settings for his stories. Among them Atlantis; Hyperborea; and the future world’s sole continent of Zothique, where civilization has reverted to ancient settings, and the old gods, demons, and sorcery have risen again. Zothique, Earth’s last continent, under a dying red sun, is the setting for this tale. This story may not technically be sword and sorcery, since it’s about a strictly sorcerous battle between two wizards. However, a sword does later make an important appearance.

This tale is told in the first person, by Manthar, the apprentice to the wizard Mior Lumivix. Another wizard, Sarcand, has procured a map to an ancient treasure buried on the deserted Island of Crabs, deserted of all human habitation, that is. Shortly after Sarcand sails for the island, Manthar and his wizard master give chase in their own boat. As they near the island:

“The isle is unpeopled,” said Mior Lumivix. “It is shunned by sailors and even by the seafowl. Men say that the curse of the maritime gods was laid upon it long ago, forbidding it to any but the creatures of the submarine deep. Its coves and caverns are haunted by crabs and octopi…and perhaps by stranger things.”…Even as we veered landward through the crystalline calm, there was a sudden seething and riffling about us, as if some monster had risen beneath. The boat began to shoot with plummet-like speed toward the cliffs, the sea foaming and streaming all around as though some kraken were dragging us to its caverned lair. Borne like a leaf on a cataract, we toiled vainly with straining oars against the ineluctable current.

The meeting between the two wizards results in a grisly ending, both for the story and a wizard.

This next short story in this collection, The Valley Of The Spiders, is from the pen of H. (Herbert) G. (George) Wells (1866-1946), Pearson's Magazine in 1903. This is probably the only tale he wrote that comes close to sword and sorcery. It’s actually more closer to a weird swashbuckler than anything else. Since the tale does not really explain when or where it takes place, de Camp believes it has a feeling of occurring in South America a little after the Spanish conquest.

Three men on horseback are riding into an unknown barren valley, tracking down a few people who ran away from one of these three men, the master who controls the city in the region. The other two men are his soldiers or servants helping with the hunt. Occasionally they spot signs of the fugitives in the distance and continue riding along the valley floor. However, they eventually spot something on the horizon rapidly coming closer that mystifies and later terrifies them.

And then he saw first one then a second great white ball, a great shining white ball like a gigantic head of thistledown, that drove before the wind athwart the path. These balls soared high in the air, and dropped and rose again and caught for a moment, and hurried on and passed, but at the sight of them the restlessness of the horses increased…But now a big globe came drifting past within a score of yards of them. It was really not an even sphere at all, but a vast, soft, ragged, filmy thing, a sheet gathered by the corners, an aerial jellyfish, as it were, but rolling over and over as it advanced, and trailing long cobwebby threads and streamers that floated in its wake.

Quickly an army of these white floating globs were descending upon the pursuers, which caused them to flee for their lives.

The Bells Of Shoredan by Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) brings this diverse collection of sword and sorcery and related tales to a close. It was first published in Fantastic in 1966. Zelazny wrote many science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories, many of which were nominated for, and some of which won, the Hugo and Nebula awards. This particular tale is one in a series of sword and sorcery stories about his hero, Dilvish the Damned of Dilfar, who had returned from Hell to defend another country in his own world. His steed is a horse-shaped beast made of black steel and possessed of the spirit of a demon, whom he occasionally converses with.

In this tale he is now helping to defend his city of Dilfar from invaders, who appear likely to overpower the defenders in a few days. Reinforcements previously sent for will not arrive in time. The king of Dilfar requests Dilvish to ride to the Citadel of Rahoring to ring the Bells of Shoredan. Half an age ago, as the legend states, an enemy army from Shoredan was about to attack this Citadel, but a wizard created the Bells of Shoredan and rang them twice to suddenly cause the enemy soldiers to disappear. The legend further states that a descendant of the Citadel’s ruling house who now rings the Bells for the third time will cause this vanished army to re-appear and follow the ringer of the Bells.

As Dilvish approaches the Citadel of Rahoring, in the realm where nothing lives:

The towers of the Citadel of Rahoring still stood; the great archway from which the gates had been stricken continued to gape, like a mouth frozen in a howl of pain and surprise, of death; the countryside about the place resembled the sterile landscape of the moon. The rider followed the Way of the Armies, which led at last to that archway and on through into the Citadel. Behind him lay a twisted trail leading downward…It ran through chill patterns of morning mist which clung, swollen, to the dark and pitted ground, like squadrons of gigantic leeches. It looped about the ancient towers, still standing only by virtue of enchantments placed upon them in foregone days. Black and awesome, high-rearing, and limned in nightmare’s clarity, the towers and the Citadel were the final visible extension of the character of their dead maker: Hohorga, King Of the World.

While at the Citadel, Dilvish encounters a priest on a holy mission, who accompanies him on his search inside. Dilvish walks through the Citadel, seeing ghostly images and scenes from the past, and meeting an “acquaintance” from Hell, with whom he has a rather physical “discussion”. Dilvish eventually reaches the Bells and attempts to conjure up the Army of Shoredan.

Many of the stories have accompanying maps which help with locating the sites mentioned by the authors. It’s interesting to note that this anthology contains two full or partial pastiches of other authors included in the book. Capella’s Turutal is what I’d call a partial pastiche in that, although the setting is in Robert E. Howard’s world of Conan, the style of writing does not appear to be an attempt to copy Howard’s. Howard’s own The Hills Of The Dead appears later in the book. Another example is Carter’s The Gods Of Niom Parma, which is a full pastiche of Dunsany’s world of the gods written in the same style as Dunsany. Dunsany’s own tale of the gods also follows its pastiche. Could de Camp have wanted readers to compare the originals with the pastiches?

This book can be found on Abebooks.com and other used book web sites for a few dollars.

To read reviews of more books from decades past, go to
Forgotten Stories of Fantastic Sword-fighters.

About the Author

Andy Beau has lived in San Diego, CA since he was 16. There were no computer degrees in the 1960s, so he graduated with a degree in math and worked in the computer programming field from 1969 until 2003, when he retired early at 57. Prior to these articles all of his writing has been technical--the composition of user manuals--and there wasn't much call for analysis of plot and character development in that. Andy's been a fan of sword and sorcery tales since college in 1966. This has lead him to other fantasy adventure genres: lost race, supernatural thrillers, Lovecraftian horror, and more. He shares his long-term love for and knowledge of sword and sorcery with his readers in these columns. SwordAndSorcery.org is proud to have him.


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