The Frozen Citadel

The Frozen Citadel by Richard Blakemore and Cora BuhlertBefore Kurval became King of Azakoria, he plied his trade as a wandering mercenary and sword for hire.

Kurval and his friend and fellow mercenary Tsabo are planning to take up service at the citadel of Harjula in the frozen north of the kingdom of Simola. But when they finally reach the citadel, they find it deserted, its inhabitants in the thrall of dark magic…

The new sword and sorcery adventure by two-time Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert and her occasional alter ego, 1930s pulp writer Richard Blakemore. This is a short story of 5900 words or approx. 22 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 Frozen Citadel is a short story of 5900 words or approximately 25 print pages in the Kurval sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
  • The Frozen Citadel was one of the stories written during the 2021 July Short Story Challenge, where the aim was to write a short story per day in July 2021.
  • Like many of the July Short Story Challenge stories, The Frozen Citadel was inspired by several pieces of fantasy art, namely this one, this one and this one, all by Nele Diel.
  • Another inspiration was a throwaway line in King’s Justice that Kurval had slain the serpent Khalikidai at some point in his past.
  • Like The Plains of Shadow and The Wolf of Rajala, this is another Kurval story set before his time as King of Azakoria. As in The Wolf of Rajala, Kurval is plying his trade as a mercenary in this story.
  • The Frozen Citadel introduces a new character to the Kurval series, namely Kurval’s friend and fellow mercenary Tsabo. Tsabo initially was created because Kurval needed someone to talk to while wandering across the ice. He then strutted into my brain fully formed, as a big black man with a shaven head.
  • Though Tsabo was only created for this one story, I liked him and decided to keep him around. So he will reappear in the Kurval adventure Twelve Nooses, which is coming soon.
  • 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 are 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 Tithi Luadthong.