The Temple of the Snake God

The Temple of the Snake God by Cora BuhlertIt was supposed to be an easy job. Go in, grab the eye of the idol and get out.

But the temple of the snake god Tseghirun turns out to be unexpectedly busy, when Thurvok, the sellsword, and his friends, Meldom, thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin, the sorceress Sharenna and Meldom’s sweetheart Lysha attempt to steal the eye. Not only is there a ceremony going on at the temple, no, the cultists are also about to sacrifice several young girls to the snake god Tseghirun. And so what started out as a simple heist quickly turns into a rescue mission.

This is a short story of 6200 words or approximately 22 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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More information:

  • The Temple of the Snake God is a short story of 6200 words or approximately 22 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 Temple of the Snake God was one of the stories written during the 2019 July short story challenge, where the aim was to write a short story per day in July 2019.
  • Like many of the July short story challenge stories, The Temple of the Snake God was partly inspired by a piece of fantasy art, namely the 1970 painting “Green Death” by Frank Frazetta.
  • The other inspiration was what eventually became the first line of the story, as uttered by Meldom, “It’s an easy job. Go in, grab the eye of the idol and get out.” Of course, anybody who has read any of the Thurvok stories knows that Meldom’s easy jobs inevitably come with a catch.
  • Zanya did not appear in the initial draft of the story. However, when I was looking for cover art, I came across the perfect image. There was only one problem. The image featured a beautiful black warrior woman, but there was no such character in the story itself. So I thought, “Why don’t I write such a character into the story?” And so, Zanya was born, a young woman who wants to save her sister from being sacrificed to the snake god Tseghirun. In retrospect, the story works actually better with the addition of Zanya, because she gives our heroes a concrete reason to deviate from their original plan and rescue the girls. The girls actually did get rescued in the original draft, too, but our heroes simply deciding to do the right thing made for a weaker story overall. Not to mention that I like Zanya a lot and will certainly revisit her one day.
  • Some people will probably believe that a black woman would never have appeared as a heroic character in an actual 1930s pulp story. They are wrong, for in fact, there were quite a few pulp stories which featured characters of colour in non-stereotyped and even heroic roles. The most famous examples are probably Eric John Stark, Leigh Brackett’s interplanetary adventurer, and Josh and Rosabel Newton, an educated African American couple who aided the pulp hero The Avenger, but there are several others. Of course, Zanya would likely not have been featured on the cover of an actual 1930s pulp magazine. Even Eric John Stark was not depicted as a black man on the covers of his own adventures until 2008, almost sixty years after the character was introduced in the pages of Planet Stories.
  • All four heroes get plenty to do and though Sharenna’s magic is once more the biggest gun, it’s the guest character Zanya who saves the day and takes out the villain in this one.
  • Even though our heroic quartet does manage to rescue several young girls from being sacrificed to the snake god, they nonetheless fail to grab the treasure. But then, it is the fate of sword and sorcery heroes to remain financially unlucky, for otherwise they’d probably give up adventuring. Not that heroes settling down cannot make for good stories – see Conan as king of Aquilonia or the latter day Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories.
  • 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 Unholy Vault.