... Wizard's Duel, Gygax-style Tuesday, April 15, 2008In my last blog post, I mentioned that by far my favorite part of all the Gygax fiction I've read is his interpretation of that most classic of fantasy tropes: the wizard's duel. While we got a taste of such things in The Anubis Murders, the original Dungeon Master takes the art to new heights in The Samarkand Solution, showing us the sort of arcane power and creativity Magister Setne Inhetep is capable of when pushed to the limit by an...
Wizard's Duel, Gygax-style
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
In my last blog post, I mentioned that by far my favorite part of all the Gygax fiction I've read is his interpretation of that most classic of fantasy tropes: the wizard's duel. While we got a taste of such things in The Anubis Murders, the original Dungeon Master takes the art to new heights in The Samarkand Solution, showing us the sort of arcane power and creativity Magister Setne Inhetep is capable of when pushed to the limit by an another wizard-priest as adept as himself. To see what I mean, check out the following excerpt from The Samarkand Solution, in which the magister and Inspector Tuhorus fight for their lives in the Blood Temple of the Serpent God, Aapep:
In the meantime, the conjured snake came at Inhetep, rose, and as a fiery redness split its jaws, the iron length lashed forward. Livid crimson venom spurted forth in a thick jet. It struck a shining disc which had appeared in an instant, splattering into burning droplets, and hissed into nothingness as the molten stuff shot into a harmless spray before the magister. But then the iron head of the cobra hit the silvery shield, and the disc split into metallic shards, which fell chiming to the stone and disappeared.
"Useless!" cried the gloating voice of Aapep's servant.
"Melodious!" countered the magister, and as he spoke the chiming sounds of the falling bits of silvery disc continued, were drawn out, and their tinkling became deeper. A plangent three-note sequence grew from that, and it resonated in rhythmic waves which filled the cavernous temple. "You pet cobra seems charmed!" he called out, for the iron monster was now swaying before him as if it were some strange metronome. Left, right, back and forth it went, but never quite in time with the three sounds which now rolled and pulsed throughout the grim underground temple. Faster and faster went the unnatural snake as the waves of sound peaked and sank and charged. The reverberations were renewed, restated, and repeated, so that ever-closer notes formed an impossible mesh around the dark priest-mage's metal monster of death.
Knowing that his magick was failing, the man was about to try and withdraw the iron snake, or send it in a destructive rush to overwhelm his foe, when he caught a glimpse of Tuhorus out of the corner of his eye. Letting go of his mental link with the cobra, the evil kheri-heb spun and flung a shower of fiery darts in the direction of the policeman. Then he continued turning and ran, disappearing down one of the tunnels beside the wall of Aapep.
Inspector Tuhorus used his blade to bat aside the pair of flaming darts which knifed toward his face. Another seared his chest as it hissed past. His shirt burst into flames where the fiery missile had touched it, and his short cape was likewise set ablaze by another dart which passed through its cloth. Then he was struck in the body and limbs by yet more of the things. He fell to the floor, writhing in pain, rolling to extinguish the fire which now played over him with greedy, searing tongues.
The storm of sound engendered by Inhetep's counter-heka reached a crescendo, and those ringing notes shook the iron snake; it flew suddenly in ten thousand pieces, each a tiny meteor that burned hellishly for a split second, then winked into nothingness. After the massive pyrotechnic display, the waves of metallic sound ceased, and the red light was replaced once again by the faint wash of moonlike glow from beyond. The magister had seen the attack upon Tuhorus, for his casting needed no concentration to sustain its effect. Setne was hurrying to help the policeman when something else distracted him. The six stone statues began to move with ponderous steps, and the sinuous depiction of the serpent-dragon started to come alive....
... Don't Mess with the Wizard-Priest Tuesday, April 1, 2008He's back! After taking several months to introduce you to some of the other legendary authorsin our Planet Stories line, we've come back around to the source and released The Samarkand Solution, Gary Gygax's successor to The Anubis Murders. Though the book stands alone (and indeed, all of the Gygax novels we're publishing can be read in any order), this adventure once more follows the adventures of Ægyptian Magister Setne Inhetep,...
Don't Mess with the Wizard-Priest
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
He's back! After taking several months to introduce you to some of the otherlegendaryauthorsin our Planet Stories line, we've come back around to the source and released The Samarkand Solution, Gary Gygax's successor to The Anubis Murders. Though the book stands alone (and indeed, all of the Gygax novels we're publishing can be read in any order), this adventure once more follows the adventures of Ægyptian Magister Setne Inhetep, wizard-priest to Pharaoh himself.
Temporarily bereft of his bewitching bodyguard, Rachelle, Setne heads down to the city of On for some rest and relaxation, only to run across the path of a notorious assassin. As the nobles around him begin dropping like flies, Setne is quickly drawn into a web of intrigue that finds him working both with and against the local government and the evil church of Set. In a city where seemingly everyone is guilty of something, a treasonous conspiracy is forming that could shake Ægypt all the way to the halls of Pharaoh's palace. But can Setne get to the bottom of things before he himself becomes the next victim?
For those who enjoyed The Anubis Murders, I think it's safe to say that you'll enjoy The Samarkand Solution even more. Gygax truly hits his stride in this book, and the biggest selling point for me is the introduction of Inspector Tuhorus, the hard-bitten city cop assigned to work with Setne. The only thing better than one quick-witted protagonist is two of them, and it's fun to see someone make the ever-confident Setne a straight man against his will. If The Anubis Murders broke some molds by presenting an honest-to-goodness mystery in a fantasy setting, The Samarkand Solution pushes the envelope even farther by adding an element of the classic "buddy cop" film. Toss in Setne's desperate attempts to avoid the attentions of the—*ahem*—affectionate and beautiful Lady Xonaapi, and the novel ends up somewhat racier than its predecessor as well. But really, for me, reading a Gygax novel is all about the magic, and Samarkand certainly doesn't disappoint on that count, as can be seen in the following excerpt:
A gigantic mass of living flames shifted, hot-violet spots fixing themselves upon the magister as if they were eyes. In fact they were eyes, and red-orange fires parted and a mouth spoke. "You come to your death, fool! Run away, little man, or I shall sear your flesh and boil your blood ere I consume you!"
"If you thought you could do that, efreet, you'd act, not boast," Inhetep shouted back. "Return now to your infernal realm, or it is I who will quench you!" Although the magister had expected to encounter some form of creature from the Spheres of Fire, this near-demoniac in its most potent form came as a surprise, but he didn't allow the monster to have an inkling of that. Even as he spoke, the ur-kheri-heb made preparations to carry out his threat.
The towering creature of hellfire form reached out to grab its antagonist, then withdrew its fiery arm with a shrieking howl as it contacted the freezing water. Its cry hurt Inhetep's ears, and the hemisphere trembled, bulging in where the efreet had struck it, then restored itself to smoothness again. It was noticeably smaller. "Son of a newt!" the fire being roared. "I'll soon have you out of that bubble and fry you slowly for your presumptuousness!"
With that, the flame-limbs struck down upon the shielding water, pounding upon it again and again. The monstrous thing howled in pain as it sought to destroy Inhetep's protection, but it was enraged and determined. Inside his watery shell, Inhetep worked desperately. He had to both maintain his defense and mount an offense against the efreet. No mere defense could prevail for long in such conditions as these. He worked with precision even as the water which protected him hissed and wavered and shrank to little more than a few inches of liquid but a foot above his sweating head. There was a sudden eruption of steam, and as vapors of superheated stuff rose round Setne, the priest-wizard called out, "Now, thing of perdition, you are doomed!"