Art of the Genre: Gandalf, Conan, and Gray Mouser review Tales from the Emerald Serpent Volume II: A Knight in the Silk Purse; moderated by Cthulhu
Somewhere, in the labyrinthine halls of time and space, three figures sit in what would be considered a green room by the standards of the world we know today. Each, in their time, was brought forth by the hand and mind of a great writer, but upon their passing, most of their tales came to an end, so what else is there to do but sit in the purgatory of licensing and read about other adventures that they can no longer partake. So it is that these three immortal characters have come to discuss a new work of fiction, one that has a seed of commonality with the genre they so thoroughly understand. And to keep them on track, the Great Cthulhu has been summoned from R’lyeh to moderate the affair.
Gandalf: Introductions you say, why yes, I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me!
Gray Mouser: Seriously, if I have to hear him say that one more time, Cat’s Claw is coming out…
Conan: Nay, friend Mouser, stay thy hand that it can be put to better use on dark sorcerers like those of ancient Stygia and not this kindly grey-cloaked priest.
Gandalf: Priest! I dare say you misjudge, my heavily girded friend, but you do bring up a point of interest, that being the mage-craft and wizardry, something that appears in the tale Water Listens. Now Cenote is indeed one of my kindred and has the grace of the Secret Fire and the flame of Anor certainly burns within her.
Gray Mouser: Flame? Did you read as I did, Stormcrow? That woman is more reminiscent of Sheelba of the Eyeless Face, and there was no fire in her at all, but instead she seems filled with water as deep as the soul of Sea-King.
Conan: Tis true, Gandalf, yet she has friends of the flame, her slave Hunhau and the stout black, Tohil.
Gray Mouser: See, the Great Old One agrees with Conan and I… as much as he ever does.
Gandalf: Indeed, so it would seem. Conan, this Tohil you speak of is a strong sort with blood like the men of Umbar and the south, although no touch of Sauron was upon him that I could tell.
Conan: And yet he cannot hold his drink like the men of Cimmeria, but he could handle a blade as rightly as any mercenary of the Hyborian Age, or so his tale of A Conflict of Air boasts.
Gray Mouser: I have seen the like of his prowess before, among the deadly Mingols, the hired blades for the merchants of great Lankhmar.
Conan: A fine city you have, Mouser, and one I would like to have trod in my time, but so too do I feel it is akin to the haunted stones of great Taux, which we find in these tales.
Gandalf: Taux, like a mix of Minas Morgul and Tharbad, if both I and the fallen Sauruman vied for some control among its throngs of humanity.
Gray Mouser: Yet amid the darkness there are riches, eh? Honey gold, magic trinkets, and of course jewels.
Gandalf: Jewels are a danger to all those who covet them, as the sad tale of Feanor and his Silmarils tells.
Gray Mouser: And so that is confirmed, Stormcrow, with the tale of the Four Faces and the trials of the woman Torrent and her mighty ruby. Ah, I am reminded of Nemia of the Dusk and her jewel trade that no man can ever trust.
Conan: She is a woman like few I have seen, and her soul is of the sea, like the tigress Belit, although by Crom and Ymir I hope she does not share the same fate of my queen of the Black Coast!
Gandalf: He brings up a good point, as our time is fleeting and we must finish this before the turning of the tide.
Conan: Then shall we speak of rogues or women, for I care for those tales above all else, save battle, of which we’ve already had our fill.
Gray Mouser: Ah yes, let us partake of some lascivious play! How I do wish to spend my hard won coin in the halls of the Silk Purse! What I could show those ladies, and I hope, what they could also show me!
Gandalf: Do not forget, Mouser, a knight lurks within those walls, and the Lady Evynhoe is like the men of Westernesse and fallen Numenor, with her sight is just as gifted.
Conan: Rightly so, Greyhame, but those that sat before her at the tribunal were a shrewd bunch, as the telling of Beauty of Essence, A View from High Ground, and Soul of Fire shows. I, for one, would enjoy a good journey with fine Dethocrates, as both his bow and his brawn would serve along the road.
Gray Mouser: For me, I say a like-minded companion would be Savino, as we both would seek the softest places to land amid the silken dens as rich to be plumbed as those of the Plaza of Dark Delights.
Gandalf: But what of valor, and those who would stem the tide of darkness that even now stretches a cold hand across the city?
Conan: Gayhame and Cthulhu speak true, and by right, I’ve taken the head of many a dark sorcerer, but each is a power I’d not wish to face again. The same can be said for the Weaver who plagues this book in more than one tale like a great serpent of the south.
Gray Mouser: I have practiced sorcery in my time, and I’ve often said that risk is my bedmate, but the tale of Cold Shay in Nothing Goes Unpaid is more terrifying than many I have heard in my days amid the travelers and storytellers at the Golden Lamprey.
Gandalf: The dealings of Cold Shay were indeed troublesome, and yet I felt dark essence in the tale Bloodcoin as well. The practices of a necromancer are not something to be taken lightly, as those who live in the wilds of the southern Mirkwood can attest!
Conan: Too true! And what of the loss of a love and the dark sorcery purchased by men of wealth, fattened like swine on the hard labor of others that was found in The Fairest Flower? As a man of gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, I felt for poor Timar, as I have loved and lost more than most.
Gray Mouser: Agreed, friend Conan, as I felt a twinge strike my heart like an assassin’s blade upon the reading, my thoughts going to my sweet Ivrian, not to mention the tragedy of the loss of family in Another Word for Rain.
Gandalf: Love and loss is one thing, but like the bonds that held Beren and Luthien, so too did I felt a sadness and hope as of old in the reading of the hearts intertwined in Promises.
Conan: And do not forget the Stygian-like sorcerer and his cursed blade, or the priestess as black as the dark hair of the women of Zamora. I, for one, shall not forget this struggle between light and shadow found in The Drinker of Death.
Gray Mouser: Nor should you, for that tale is mixed deep in the blood and sinew of the entire text, as is each one of the adventures from the tome.
Gandalf: Like the Noldor of Beleriand, who sang in the shadow world before the two trees, these fine bards spin a tale so great it could be retold in the gardens of Irmo before the merciful Nienna in the sheltered West.
Gray Mouser: Or perhaps called out by the criers on the Street of the Gods.
Conan: Had I a mug, I would bring forth a fine toast to that!
Gandalf: Who are these storytellers? Great Cthulhu keeps us on task again! Why I have the tome right here, and I will read from it so that all may know. And so it is recorded that Julie Czerneda, Howard Tayler, Juliet McKenna, Dan Wells, Lynn Flewelling, Dave Gross, Elaine Cunningham, Scott Taylor, Martha Wells, Todd Lockwood, Mike Tousignant, and Rob Mancebo brought forth these legends of the Ghosts of Taux.
Conan: A mighty list! And to each one I give the full weight of the seal of the King of Aquilonia!
Gray Mouser: And I bow to their mighty pens, each as sharp as Scalpel, and filled with a fine magic all their own. These are not simple skalds, but creators of events that shape epics and tread across worlds as strange as those seen only by Ningauble of the Seven Eyes!
Gandalf: Then let us conclude this discourse with a recommendation as wealthy as the King Under the Mountain. For any sages in ages to come who seek adventure of the highest degree, and have enjoyed tales from the four of us retold in collected tomes, we all highly endorse this second installment of Tales of the Emerald Serpent, A Knight in the Silk Purse.
Gray Mouser: Well said.