"Stardock" is a tale of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, focusing on Fafhrd's obsession with scaling a mountain peak from northern homeland. Fafhrd's father, we learn, was a renowned mountain climber. Known as the "Legend Breaker," he topped numerous peaks believed to be unclimbable, earning him great fame and, ultimately, a death on the slopes of White Fang. Fafhrd admits to being nowhere near the climber that his deceased father was, but nevertheless he strongly desires to test himself against Stardock, about which the following was written:
Who mourns white Stardock, the Moon Tree,Fafhrd goes further, explaining to the Mouser what his people say about Stardock:
Past worm and gnome and unseen bars,
Will win the key to luxury:
The Heart of Light, a pouch of stars.
"They say the gods once dwelt and had their smithies on Stardock and from thencem amid jetting fire and showering sparks, launched all the stars; hence her name. They say diamonds, rubies, smaragds -- all great gems -- are the tiny pilot models the gods made of the stars ... and then threw carelessly away across the world when their great work was done."It was this very passage that was the seed from which Dwimmermount sprang. Though the megadungeon eventually grew beyond this initial idea, it was Fafhrd's description above that first inspired in me the idea of an impenetrable mountain fortress filled with ancient treasures.
Naturally, the Mouser is intrigued with the idea of finding the great wealth rumored to be found atop Stardock. He suggests that the "Heart of Light" mentioned in the poem might refer to the largest diamond in all of Nehwon, a gem he'd love the opportunity to steal. And so the Twain set off to best Stardock, hoping, in the case of Fafhrd, to achieve something even his famous father could not, and, in the case of the Gray Mouser, to gain treasure beyond imagining. The story that follows is a long one and, I'll admit, often slow going. Leiber, as I understand it, was fond of mountain climbing himself and it shows in the lengths to which he goes to describe the details of his protagonists' ascent. However, this is also a sword-and-sorcery yarn; Fafhrd and Mouse encounter numerous challenges other than the high peak, some of which are quite memorable.
I can't say much about what is truly atop Stardock without spoiling the fun of this story. I will say, though, that I think "Stardock" is one of Leiber's better tales of the Twain -- charged with adventure, eroticism, and more than a little melancholy. Indeed, it's that last quality that I think elevates "Stardock" above many of its competitors in the canon of Nehwon. Though Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are, in many ways, the quintessential happy-go-lucky vagabonds for whom life is nothing but a grand adventure, they do grow and change over the course of that adventure. You get a clear sense of that growth and change in "Stardock" and I think it helps to make this story more than a plodding, even dull, recounting of a mountain climbing expedition. That said, it's also probably not to every reader's tastes, which is why, though I love it, I can easily imagine others might not.