I'm looking for a sword and sorcery short story I read a long time ago: it's from the pulp era, possibly the 30s.
I used to think it had been written by Clark Ashton Smith as both the style and the atmosphere fit his works but after reading all of his stories I had to give up: now I'm clueless.
I don't remember much about the plot: only the antagonist, who's the plot's main feature too.

This man is a wizard, of the sword and sorcery kind: that is, a wizard who isn't shown casting fireballs or other spells over and over but is known to be dabbling with magic, hence very powerful, hence feared and respected.
He's quite old and probably evil too but always carries a backpack with a (sleeping) infant inside it.

Only in the finale it is revealed that the infant in the backpack is actually a parasite or symbiont that is controlling the wizard and devised this disguise to avoid being discovered.

Can you help me find the story and/or the author?

  • 1
    Not the answer, but this could have inspired Dougal Dixon's water-finding symbiont, which also resembles a carried baby, in Man after Man, a biology of the future. See the fourth image in this review. Jan 9, 2020 at 23:56

1 Answer 1


Sounds like a chapter from the series Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson, specifically from book 2 of the Second Chronicles, The One Tree. From its Wikipedia page:

Covenant and the Haruchai fight their way to Kasreyn's laboratory but discover that Kasreyn has a parasitic being living on his back that provides him with extended longevity and immunity to physical attack. Findail kills both the parasite and Kasreyn, setting off a palace coup that leaves the port in a state of chaos.

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    This might well be it: I see I've read the Covenant series over twenty years ago, roughly the same time when I've also read the bulk of Smith's stories for the first time, so in my mind their memories might have swapped. I'll check the book when I'm back home but I have a feeling this might be the story I was looking for. Thank you for helping me.
    – Zab Zonk
    Jan 10, 2020 at 6:26
  • This is what I thought of upon reading the question. Jan 10, 2020 at 8:00
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    I've checked right now: this is the (piece of a) story I remembered. Thank you for the precise help!
    – Zab Zonk
    Jan 10, 2020 at 17:41
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    "a parasitic being living on his back that provides him with extended longevity and immunity to physical attack" I'm not sure the author understands what a parasite is :)
    – alexgbelov
    Jan 10, 2020 at 18:19
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    @ZabZonk FYI, the final four books of the Covenant series were published from 2004-2013, so there are more available for reading if you're interested! Croyels (the parasitic creatures) have a large role in the third triology.
    – Parker
    Jun 29, 2020 at 16:40

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