Thurvok the sellsword and his companions Meldom, thief and occasional assassin, and the sorceress Sharenna are fleeing across the Bleak Heath after saving Meldom’s childhood sweetheart Lysha from the gallows. Weary and exhausted, they are relieved to come upon a hut on the heath. But what they find inside that hut may well be more dangerous than the heath itself.
This is a novelette of 10500 words or approx.. 35 print pages in the Thurvok sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.
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- The Bleak Heath is a novelette of 10500 words or approximately 35 print pages in the Thurvok series, but may be read as a standalone. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
- The Bleak Heath is the only Thurvok story to date that was not written during the 2018 July short story challenge, where the aim was to write a short story per day in July 2018.
- The Bleak Heath begins exactly where the previous story The Forest of the Hanged left off with Thurvok, Meldom, Sharenna and Lysha on the run after rescuing Lysha from the gallows. It’s their flight that brings them to the titular heath.
- The Bleak Heath was inspired by a visit to the Lüneburger Heide, a heath landscape and nature preserve about one hundred kilometres east of Bremen. The Lüneburger Heide and its sibling the Südheide are bleak at the best of times, coming to bright purple life only when the heath blooms for a few weeks in late summer. But due to the long hot summer of 2018, the heath was bleaker than usual, inspiring the title and setting of the story. And because Thurvok was still very much at the top of my mind after I wrote five stories about him and his companions in the space of approximately a week during the 2018 July short story challenge, I decided to send Thurvok and his companions across the heath to meet magic and malevolent nature once again.
- All previous stories in this series were told from Thurvok’s perspective, but in The Bleak Heath we get to see both Thurvok’s and Sharenna’s point of view.
- Sharenna once again proves herself to be the most powerful member of the group and saves the day with her magic. Though Lysha, who was mainly a damsel in distress in the previous story, certainly helps, too.
- In fact, the usual dynamic of the Thurvok stories is reversed in The Bleak Heath, because this time around, Thurvok and Meldom are the damsels in distress and Sharenna and Lysha get to rescue them.
- Starting with The Bleak Heath, all Thurvok stories pass the Bechdel test.
- Most of the antagonists in the Thurvok stories are rather impersonal. Thurvok and his friends fight a lot of monsters or find themselves faced with rather distant antagonists such as the priest kings of Khon Orzad or the city-conquering and maiden-hanging Rhadur. The Bleak Heath is different, because here we have a single antagonist with an understandable, if misguided motivation.
- Unlike my other stories, the Thurvok series is credited to Richard Blakemore, whom regular readers will recognise as the pulp writer protagonist of the Silencer series. As for why the Thurvok series 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 a sword and sorcery adventure for the July short story challenge some time 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 Larisa Koshkina.