The Wolf of Rajala

The Wolf of Rajala by Richard Blakemore and Cora BuhlertBefore Kurval became King of Azakoria, he was a wandering mercenary and monster slayer for hire.

One day, Kurval is hired to take out the monstrous wolves that have been besetting the village of Rajala. However, he quickly finds that the wolves are not what they seem. He also realises that the wolves have a very good reason for attacking the villagers…

This is a novelette of 8700 words or approx. 30 print pages in the Kurval sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.


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More information:

  • The Wolf of Rajala is a novelette of 8700 words or approximately 30 print pages in the Kurval series, but may be read as a standalone. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
  • This is the second Kurval story set before his time as King of Azakoria after The Plains of Shadow. In this one, Kurval plies his trade as a mercenary and wandering monster slayer.
  • The initial inspiration for this story really was that I came across a great piece of artwork by Dominick Critelli featuring a swordsman facing off against a giant wolf in a wintery forest and thought, “That would make a great cover for a sword and sorcery story, so I’d better write one to go with it.”
  • However, once I wrote the first two chapters of Kurval fighting the wolf, I thought, “If he just kills the wolf and collects his reward, that’s kind of boring. And a dead wolf suddenly changing back into a human wouldn’t have shocked anybody in the 1930s, let alone today.” After all, Weird Tales was full of werewolf stories in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.
  • In the end, it was another piece of artwork, Margaret Brundage’s cover for the March 1933 issue of Weird Tales, which features a naked woman running through the snow with a pack of wolves, which provided the next spark of inspiration. “What if the werewolf were a woman?” I wondered, “And what if she actually had a very good reason for harassing the people of Rajala?” The story grew from there.
  • Not only are the werewolves featured in “The Wolf of Rajala” matriarchal, all characters with speaking parts in this story except for Kurval himself are women.
  • The werewolves featured in “The Wolf of Rajala” don’t follow common werewolf lore. However, the werewolf lore we know it today, though based on actual myths and legends, was largely invented by screenwriter Curd Siodmak for the 1941 horror movie The Wolf Man. Meanwhile, the werewolf stories published in Weird Tales in the 1920s and 1930s were a lot more varied in the way they depict werewolves.
  • The Thurvok stories sit on the lighter end of the sword and sorcery spectrum, in spite of plenty of monsters, skeletons and resurrected corpses, and closer to Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser (though there are plenty of dark Leiber stories as well) than to Conan and Jirel of Joiry. The Kurval stories are more Robert E. Howard, particularly the Kull stories and three King Conan stories (“The Phoenix on the Sword”, “The Scarlet Citadel” and “The Hour of the Dragon”).
  • Unlike most of my other stories, the Kurval series is credited to Richard Blakemore, whom regular readers will recognise as the pulp writer protagonist of the Silencer series. As for why my sword and sorcery fiction is credited to Richard Blakemore, in the Silencer story Mean Streets and Dead Alleys, Richard purchases the January 1936 issue of Weird Tales and is pleased to find a new instalment of a Conan serial by Robert E. Howard, a Jirel of Joiry novelette by C.L. Moore, a Jules de Grandin novelette by Seabury Quinn as well as one of Margaret Brundage’s famous covers. He also muses that he would like to take a stab at writing something like that one day. This throwaway scene got me thinking, “What if Richard actually did write a sword and sorcery series for Jake Levonsky?”
  • When I found myself writing what would become the first Thurvok adventure for the July short story challenge sometime later, I suddenly wondered, “What if this was Richard Blakemore’s lost sword and sorcery series?” And so I decided to credit the story to Richard and pass myself off as the editor who rediscovered him. I even created a blog, a Twitter account and an Amazon author page for Richard and filled out a Smashwords interview in his persona.
  • The cover is stock art by Dominick Critelli.
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