First Monday Free Fiction: “The Valley of the Man Vultures”

The Valley of the Man Vultures by Richard Blakemore and Cora BuhlertWelcome to the July 2023 edition of First Monday Free Fiction.

To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on the first Monday of every month. At the end of the month, I’ll take the story down and post another.

This month’s free story is The Valley of the Man Vultures, the first story in my Thurvok sword and sorcery series.

So follow Thurvok, as he ventures into…

The Valley of the Man Vultures

The Great Western Desert was an endless expanse of sand and death, parched land and bleached bones. Many a traveller had succumbed to its many dangers and their bones littered the caravan trails. But no matter how many bleached skulls lay scattered by the roadside as a silent warning, there were always more travellers willing to brave the dangers of the desert. For somewhere beyond the Great Western Desert lay the city of Krysh, with streets of gold and spires of silver and walls studded with diamonds and riches beyond imagination.

One of the many brave and foolhardy travellers who attempted to cross the Great Western Desert was Thurvok, the sellsword. He was a large man, a mountain of muscles and sinews. His hair was dark and his skin the colour of bronze, like the parched steppes of the East whence he had come, in search of riches and adventure. Thurvok was a fearsome fighter and dangerous scoundrel, wanted for various crimes in no less than seven cities of the realm. Like so many before him, he was headed for Krysh and its fabled riches. For in a city of such wealth, there was always work for a sellsword and always opportunity for plunder. And Thurvok was determined to avail himself of both.

So far, Thurvok had made good progress through the desert. He travelled with a caravan of merchants bound for Krysh, providing the protection of his sword and his muscles in exchange for food and water and wine and a gold coin or five. Though so far, the journey though the desert had been mostly uneventful. Only once did some bandits attack the caravan. Their carcasses were now rotting by the roadside, soon to be yet another pile of bleached bones.

And now Krysh was but a day’s journey away. Just one more day and Thurvok would enjoy women, wine and wealth beyond imagination.

But before they reached Krysh, Thurvok and his fellow travellers first had to pass through the Valley of the Accursed Blood, a narrow canyon bordered by towering mesas on either side. This valley was considered the deadliest part of the Great Western Desert, rumoured to house dangers few men had lived to tell about.

At least that was what the merchant Mikeliz, one of Thurvok’s travelling companions had said by the friendly flicker of a campfire last night.

“But how can you possibly know about those dangers…” Thurvok had pointed out, “…when no men ever lived to tell about them?”

“Not no men, only few men,” Mikeliz continued, “And anyway, everybody knows about the dangers that await unwary or reckless travellers in the Valley of the Accursed Blood…”

“Even though few men lived to tell about them.”

“Dangers beyond imagination,” Mikeliz continued, clearly irritated.

Thurvok just shrugged. “If you say so. But my imagination is pretty vivid.”


This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in The Valley of the Man Vultures. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.


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