Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Plains of Shadow (Kurval, Book 1) by Richard Blakemore and Cora Buhlert


Release date: January 12, 2021
Subgenre: Sword and Sorcery

About The Plains of Shadow


Long before Kurval became King of Azakoria, he was a guard captain in service to the tyrannical King Talgat of the land Temirzhan beyond the sea.

One day, Talgat orders Kurval to escort the condemned witch Aelisia to the Plains of Shadow and behead her, so her blood may feed the dark gods who dwell there.

However, Kurval does not want to execute the sentence, once he learns that Aelisia is innocent of the crimes of which she has been accused.

But if he lets Aelisia go free, Kurval will not only have to face the wrath of Talgat but also the fury of the dark gods who dwell upon the Plains of Shadow.

This is a novelette of 9800 words or approx. 33 print pages in the Kurval sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.



I. Sentence of Death

The prisoner knelt in the dust before the throne, clad only in a thin gown of roughly woven linen. Her hands were bound, her feet bare. Her dark hair was tousled and her head was lowered in submission.

“Aelisia of Samatov,” Talgat, King of Temirzhan, thundered, “You have been found guilty of witchcraft and of treason, for you attempted to use your sorcerous wiles to murder me, your King and conqueror of your people, in my sleep…”

The prisoner said nothing. Her mouth was covered by a leather muzzle, for one accused of witchcraft was not allowed to defend herself, lest she use her voice to utter a spell or a curse. And so only her eyes spoke. Dark eyes blazing with hatred.

“For a crime of such magnitude, there can be only one punishment: Death.”

The word fell like the axe that would soon sever the prisoner’s head.

The prisoner still glared at Talgat and it was the King who first turned away.

“Kurval,” he said to the young captain of his Royal Guard, “The condemned must be put to death as soon as possible. See to it that it is done.”

In response, Kurval stepped forward. He was a tall man, with lean muscles, sun-bronzed skin and dark hair he wore tied with a leather thong at the nape of his neck in the manner of his people. His steel grey eyes were impassive as he regarded the young prisoner kneeling before him.

He drew his mighty broadsword and raised it over his head, ready to bring down the blade on the neck of the condemned.

“Don’t move, girl,” he whispered, his voice curiously gentle, “I’ll make it quick.”

Talgat shook his head. “Not here,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand, “The people of Samatov might riot, if the witch is beheaded in public. Lead the condemned onto the Plains of Shadow instead and execute the sentence there, so the dark gods may feast on her blood, as the ancient bargain dictates.”

Talgat paused and cast a knowing look at the captain of his Royal Guard. “You may do with her as you wish before then, Captain”

Kurval nodded and sheathed his sword. “As you command, Your Majesty.”

He hauled the girl to her feet and led her away, his grip firm, but not rough enough to leave bruises.

Aelisia did not struggle, but her dark eyes were still blazing like the black flames flickering under a witch’s cauldron.


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About Richard Blakemore:

Richard Blakemore (1900 – 1994) was a prolific writer of pulp fiction. Nowadays, he is best remembered for creating the Silencer, a masked vigilante in the vein of the Shadow or the Spider, during the hero pulp boom of the 1930s. But Richard Blakemore also wrote in many other genres, including an early sword and sorcery series about the adventures of a sellsword named Thurvok and his companions and another about a barbarian king named Kurval.
Richard Blakemore's private life was almost as exciting as his fiction. He was a veteran of World War I and II as well as a skilled sportsman and adventurer who travelled the world during the 1920s. He may also have been the person behind the mask of the real life Silencer who prowled New York City between 1933 and 1942, fighting crime, protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty, though nothing has ever been proven.

Richard Blakemore was married for more than fifty years to Constance Allen Blakemore and the couple had four children.


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About Cora Buhlert:

Cora Buhlert was born and bred in North Germany, where she still lives today – after time spent in London, Singapore, Rotterdam and Mississippi. Cora holds an MA degree in English from the University of Bremen and is currently working towards her PhD. 

Cora has been writing, since she was a teenager, and has published stories, articles and poetry in various international magazines. She is the author of the Silencer series of pulp style thrillers, the Shattered Empire space opera series, the In Love and War science fiction romance series, the Helen Shepherd Mysteries and plenty of standalone stories in multiple genres.

When Cora is not writing, she works as a translator and teacher. She also runs the Speculative Fiction Showcase and the Indie Crime Scene and contributes to the Hugo-nominated fanzine Galactic Journey. Cora was a finalist for the 2020 Hugo Award.


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