That said, "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros" is a superb story, the first of Smith's Hyperborean tales and a terrific spin on the emerging genre of swords-and-sorcery. The short story is a first person account by the titular thief, who recounts his attempted theft from the temple of Tsathoggua in the ruins of an ancient city:
I, Satampra Zeiros of Uzuldaroum, shall write with my left hand, since I have no longer any other, the tale of everything that befell Tirouv Ompallios and myself in the shrine of the god Tsathoggua, which lies neglected by the worship of man in the jungle-taken suburbs of Commoriom, that long-deserted capital of the Hyperborean rulers. I shall write it with the violet juice of the suvana-palm, which turns to a blood-red rubric with the passage of years, on a strong vellum that is made from the skin of the mastodon, as a warning to all good thieves and adventurers who may hear some lying legend of the lost treasures of Commoriom and be tempted thereby.The story that follows beautifully -- and somewhat disconcertingly -- blends elements of swords-and-sorcery with mordant wit and mounting horror, as it recounts the misadventure of two vainglorious thieves who mistakenly believe they can "replenish [their] finances at the expense of a few dead kings or gods." It reads almost like an alternate universe version of a Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser tale, in which the characters' greed and self-satisfaction get the better of them, leaving them impotent before the eldritch horror that awaits them.
H.P. Lovecraft was apparently quite impressed with this story, telling CAS in a letter that he had "achieved in its fullest glamour the exact Dunsanian touch which I find it almost impossible to duplicate" and adding that it came "close to being [Smith's] high point in prose fiction to date." So impressed was Lovecraft that he is believed to have pressed Weird Tales editor, Farnsworth Wright, to accept the story after he'd initially rejected it as unsuitable for publication. For myself, I find it a moody, evocative story that shows just how compelling an adventure-gone-wrong can be. I think it's a good object lesson for referees and players alike, who might feel that PCs should never suffer permanent setbacks or reversals in their adventures. "The Tales of Satampra Zeiros" shows that, sometimes, a character is made more interesting by his failures, particularly spectacular ones.