A no longer quite so new Thurvok story available: The Night Court

Before we get back to photos, con reports and genre commentary, here is a not quite new release announcement. Because I just realised that I never officially announced the latest Thurvok story, which came out just before I left for WorldCon.

Like most of the previous Thurvok stories, The Night Court was written during the July Short Story Challenge, where the aim is to write a story per day during the month of July. And in fact, The Night Court is the first 2019 July Short Story Challenge stories to be published.

Like many July short story challenge stories, The Night Court was inspired by fantasy art. The initial inspiration was this piece by Nele Diel. So I started writing the first scene, where Meldom walks through the city by night, only to be attacked and taken. However, I had no idea what would happened next. And so looked through my folder of inspirational images again and came upon this piece by Joseph Vargo. This image of a dungeon, complete with unfortunate prisoners and a grim looking inquisitioner, sparked an idea. What if whoever had captured Meldom was not a kidnapper, bandit or old enemy, but the law or what passes for it? Especially since the law has plenty of reasons to be after Meldom, given his past. And so the Night Court was born.

The titular Night Court is loosely based upon the Vehmic courts of medieval Germany or rather the legends surrounding said courts. Now I had long planned to write a story about someone innocently accused by a Vehmic Court someday, though I had intended it to be a historical along the lines of The Kiss of the Executioner’s Blade or Hangman’s Wages (and indeed, I may still write that story someday).

The roots for that particular idea go back to being made to read Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s historical drama Götz von Berlichingen in high school. Nowadays, the play Götz von Berlichingen is mainly famous for one rather rude line, which regularly causes giggles in high school classes. Otherwise, Götz von Berlichingen is yet another classic German play about a man (the titular Götz) who is so determined to defend his principles (usually something about liberty and autonomy) that he doesn’t care who gets hurt by his obstinate behaviour. There were a lot of plays like that, all dating from the late 18th century and all written by a group of male authors who all knew each other, which we were made to read in high school. And the teachers inevitably expected us to side with the obstinate jerk protagonist and were always very surprised when we didn’t. “Nope, Wilhelm Tell having weird hang-ups about greeting a hat does not give him the right to endanger his kid, no matter how good an archer he is. Just greet the damn hat, no matter how silly the whole thing is.” – “Nope, Odoardo Galotti being pissed off at the aristocracy in general and this one Prince in particular does not give him the right to honour-kill his daughter. What the hell is wrong with that guy?”

Götz von Berlichingen at least offers plenty of excitement, as Götz’s obstinate behaviour comes back to bite him in the arse and the bishop he pissed off sends an army of killers after him. It also has more female characters than usual. Two of them are the loyal wife/girlfriend/sister type who only exists to support our hero in being obstinate, but the third, Adelheid von Walldorf, a Milady de Winter prototype, who seduces and poison men on behalf of the main antagonist, is much more interesting. And in the final act, there is a scene of a Vehmic Court with masked judges who sentence Adelheid to death for her crimes and then dispatch an executioner to kill her. This short scene is a complete non sequitur, it just pops up in the middle of a bunch of scenes of various male characters of the play dying, while maintaining their principles. Nor does Goethe ever follow up on the scene again. Does the executioner ever catch up with Adelheid? Goethe doesn’t tell us. Much to the frustration of my high school German teacher, I was not at all satisfied with that and kept asking what had happened to Adelheid, whether she’d been killed or escaped, and what was the matter with that spooky court with masked judges anyway, cause that story was obviously a lot more interesting than Götz and his principles.

That one scene with the Vehmic Court stuck in my head, as did the vague idea that someone should write that much more exciting story that Goethe failed to tell. And that someone might just as well be me. In the end, the Vehmic Court idea languished with all the other half-baked ideas for historical adventure stories somewhere at the edge of my consciousness. But while I was writing The Night Court, I thought, “What if Meldom hasn’t been captured by an official court after all, but by his world’s equivalent of a Vehmic Court?” The rest of the story largely told itself.

Now the Thurvok stories are credited to Richard Blakemore, hardworking pulp writer by day and masked crimefighter by night, who is the hero of my Silencer series. And though I wasn’t aware of it when I was writing the story, there are certain parallels between The Night Court and the Silencer story Countdown to Death, because in both stories, the protagonist finds himself accused, convicted and almost executed. And though both the Silencer and Meldom may be guilty of many other things (and compared to the pulp vigilantes from the actual 1930s, the Silencer is remarkably restrained and only rarely kills someone), they are innocent of this particular crime. So did Richard Blakemore’s experience in Countdown to Death influence his sword and sorcery story The Night Court, via me who was actually typing the story? Or do I simply keep returning to certain tropes and themes.

Whenever you have a court – even one of such dubious legality as the Night Court – you of course also have courtroom scenes. And so I have half-jokingly referred to The Night Court as a sword and sorcery courtroom drama, which it absolutely is.

So prepare to accompany Meldom, Thurvok, Sharenna and Lysha, as they face…

The Night Court
The city of Vanadur suffers under the thumb of the Night Court, whose bailiffs snatch random people off the streets and whose masked judges know only one verdict: guilty.

Meldom, thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin, is one of those who are snatched off the streets and put on trial by the Night Court. The accusation: murder. But while Meldom may have done many questionable things in the past, he knows that he did not commit this particular murder.

However, the Night Court is not inclined to believe him and so it’s up to Thurvok, Sharenna and Lysha to save him from the gallows.

This is a short story of 7100 words or 25 print pages in the Thurvok sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.

More information.
Length: 7100 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Playster, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

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