Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Worm Fodder (Kurval, Book 4) by Richard Blakemore and Cora Buhlert


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

About Worm Fodder:


After a hunt, King Kurval of Azakoria and his entourage make camp at the village of Ogwall. However, something is not right in the village. All men of fighting age are away at a mysterious ritual and the remaining villagers are clearly afraid of something.

Kurval investigates and learns that the mysterious ritual in the woods involves sacrificing the young Celisa to the dread worm Thibunoth.

Kurval is furious, for he outlawed human sacrifice in the kingdom of Azakoria. And so he sets out to save Celisa, deal with the monster and punish those who would violate the ban on human sacrifice.

This is a novelette of 9600 words or approx. 32 print pages in the Kurval sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.




I. The Hunt

A bag of flash powder exploded in the undergrowth, startling a partridge, which fluttered into the air, screeching in protest. Barely a heartbeat later, an arrow flew in a high arc, pierced the puffed up breast of the partridge and took it down.

“Well done, Ragur.” Kurval, King of Azakoria patted his young hunting companion on the back.

The young Count Falgune blushed. “Thank you, Your Majesty.” He spurred his horse and galloped off to retrieve the partridge.

The plain black garb of the young nobleman and the simple hemp rope he wore around his neck stood in stark contrast to the finery worn by the rest of the courtiers that had accompanied Kurval on this hunt in the vast woods of Odgunda.

There was a reason for this attire. Ragur the young Count Falgune was under sentence of death for treason committed by his late father. Kurval has exercised his right as King and suspended the sentence of the young Count and his new bride. If they remained loyal and did not engage in any treasonous activities for two years, Kurval would pardon them. But until then, the young Count was required to dress in the black garb of the condemned traitor and wear the noose by which he would have been hanged around his neck.

It was, Kurval reflected, better than being dead.

“I don’t understand why you chose to take that traitor along,” Izgomir, vizier and royal adviser, hissed, once Ragur was out of earshot, “And why you allow him to bear arms. He could shoot you in the back at any moment.”

Kurval turned to his adviser. “Of everybody in this hunting party, young Ragur is probably the least likely to shoot me in the back. After all, he knows that it will mean his head and that of his wife, if he tries anything.”

“If — the Gods beware — you were to die, the traitor would no longer need to fear you,” Izgomir said darkly.

“If — the Gods beware — I were to die at the hands of Ragur Falgune of all people, I’m certain that you will personally make sure that the boy pays dearly for his treachery.”

If only because Izgomir well and truly disliked Ragur Falgune and coveted the Falgune lands besides.

Izgomir bowed. “Of course, Your Majesty. I shall avenge you.”

Kurval had his sincere doubts about that. After all, Izgomir had shown no desire to avenge the previous King Orkol after Kurval had slain him in single combat either. The man was a decent vizier, but his loyalties were as fickle as the affections of a tavern girl.

“But I still think you should have hanged that traitor, when you had the chance,” Izgomir grumbled.

Kurval sighed. It wasn’t the first time they were having this argument. “For the last time, Izgomir, I welcome your advice, but I am the King and I decide whether to take your advice or not. And in the case of Ragur Falgune, I have chosen not to take it.”

Izgomir slunk away, still pouting. Kurval ignored him and scratched Trak, the late King Orkol’s favourite hunting dog, between his ears.

Kurval had inherited Trak from the late Orkol, along with Izgomir and the throne of Azakoria. Of all his subjects, Trak was probably the most loyal. A scratch between the ears, a bone and the occasional scrap of meat and Trak was your friend for life.

Dogs, Kurval reflected, were a lot better than humans.

Of all his subjects, the young Count Falgune was probably the second most loyal after Trak. For of all the courtiers, Ragur had the most to lose and nothing to gain from plotting against his king.

The boy chose this moment to return, carrying a plump and now very dead partridge.

“Excellent,” Kurval exclaimed, “With the boar I killed, the deer Baron Odacre shot and now this partridge, we shall have a fine feast tonight. So I suggest we make camp.”

“Sire, there is a village nearby by the name of Ogwall,” Izgomir suggested, “It would be more pleasant place to spend the night than a camp here in the woods.”

Kurval laughed. “Methinks you miss your soft bed in the palace. But still, lead the way.”

So Izgomir led the way, still smouldering with resentment. And once more, Kurval ignored him and instead sought out the company of the young Count Falgune.

“So how fares Nelaira?” he asked.

Kurval had met Nelaira, daughter of a minor noble and now Countess Falgune, when she had tried to kill him. She hadn’t succeeded, hadn’t even come close to success, but nonetheless Kurval found himself forced to sentence her to die alongside her betrothed Ragur. However, Kurval had no desire to hang two youths for the idiocies of love, so he had paroled them both. It was, he reflected, one of his better decisions as King.

Ragur’s face lit up, as always when he thought of his wife of three moon cycles now. “She is fine, Sire, and sends her regards.”

“Please send my regards back to her.”

“She…” Ragur’s pale face flushed and he lowered his voice. “Before we left, she told me that she was expecting.”

“Nelaira is with child? That is excellent news. It’s about time that the House of Falgune had an heir again.”

With a pang, Kurval realised that the House of Kurval did not have a heir and was not likely to have one either. Most likely, he would leave the throne as he had gained it, violently and slain at the hand of whoever would succeed him.


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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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