PC001: Come Lady Death

By Peter S. Beagle.
Read by Paul S. Jenkins (of The Rev Up Review).
Introduction by Ann Leckie.
First appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, 1963.

But in time her own parties began to bore her, and though she invited the most famous people in the land and hired the greatest jugglers and acrobats and dancers and magicians to entertain them, still she found her parties duller and duller. Listening to court gossip, which she had always loved, made her yawn. The most marvelous music, the most exciting feats of magic put her to sleep. Watching a beautiful young couple dance by her made her feel sad, and she hated to feel sad.

And so, one summer afternoon she called her closest friends around her and said to them, “More and more I find that my parties entertain everyone but me. The secret of my long life is that nothing has ever been dull for me. For all my life, I have been interested in everything I saw and been anxious to see more. But I cannot stand to be bored, and I will not go to parties at which I expect to be bored, especially if they are my own. Therefore, to my next ball I shall invite the one guest I am sure no one, not even myself, could possibly find boring. My friends, the guest of honor at my next party shall be Death himself!”

Rated PG. Contains…well, Death.

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51 Responses so far

  1. 1

    Go Listen: PodCastle · All the Billion Other Moments (Jason Penney) said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 7:58 am

    […] magazine from the folks who bring you Escape Pod and Pseudopod, launched today. The first story is Come Lady Death by Peter S. Beagle, read by Paul S. Jenkins (of The Rev Up Review). Check it out. Tags: Come Lady […]

  2. 2

    News « The Ramblin Dragon said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 8:26 am

    […] a lighter note, Podcastle is finally live.  This week’s story is Come Lady Death by Peter S. Beagle.  I cannot […]

  3. 3

    David J Rust said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 10:12 am

    A lovely and strong way to start off this long-anticipated podcast!

    Now, truthfully, I was never a huge fan of “The Last Unicorn” … mostly because, when it came out in theaters, the animation style (at least that which I saw in snippets in advertisements and television reviews) seemed a bit too … “experimental” for my tastes.

    As a kid, it put me off and I never really embraced the story.

    But Mr. Beagle’s writing is not in question; only my tastes as a young boy.

    Here, with “Come Lady Death” I was totally taken into a fantasy version of our own world, perhaps only a few hundred years ago, and captivated by both the embodiment of the culture of the time and how it would face a concept as eternal -and chilling- as Death.

    Again, a wonderful start! I’m looking forward to storming the Castle again, next week!

    Sylvan (Dave)

  4. 4

    Void Munashii said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 10:46 am

    While not the most cheerful way to start my day, “Come Lady Death” is a very beautiful story deserving to be retold down through the ages and become a classic. What could easily have become a repeat of “The Mask of the Red Death” instead takes a totally different direction, and one that I was not really expecting.

    I’ve never been a big fan of “fantasy”, but if this story is indicative of the quality of stories to come, then I look forward to many more episodes. I’m glad to see PodCastle finally go live so that i may add it to my weekly selection of commuting podcasts.

  5. 5

    Chris in Austin said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 11:42 am

    Great Story. You are off to a great start and I wish you the best of luck (Can’t go too wrong when you have some of that Kick Ass Mystic Ninja Karma going for you “;-)” ).

  6. 6

    Neil Anderson said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

    I love the idea of the birth of your podcast being about death.
    Beautifully read, it took me away from my reality if only for a little while.
    I hope that your podcast will only get better from here on although you set the bar very high.

  7. 7

    Janice in GA said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 1:28 pm

    I woke up this morning thinking “Today’s the day for Podcastle!”

    I’m looking forward to listening to the story. I LOVE Peter S. Beagle.

  8. 8

    Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Podcastle Premieres! said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 2:00 pm

    […] The premiere podcast features a reading of a short story I was once obsessed with: “Come, Lady Death” by Peter. S. Beagle. […]

  9. 9

    Hereville » Blog Archive » Podcastle Premieres! said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 2:07 pm

    […] The premiere podcast features one of the biggest names in fantasy fiction, and a short story I was once obsessed with: “Come, Lady Death” by Peter. S. Beagle. […]

  10. 10

    al saiz said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 2:13 pm

    What a wonderful way to launch the podcast. The story wove a delightful tapestry of human nature and was delicately embellished by a superb reading. You have set the bar high and I can’t wait for your next tale. Congratulations.

  11. 11

    scatterbrain said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

    I’ve been waiting for a year and finally, what a hell of an opening!

    A great dark historical fantasy start-off!

  12. 12

    PodCastle: A new poscast in town « Ifblog (ponderings 2.0) said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 5:16 pm

    […] what a great way to start a podcast indeed, the very first story, Come Lady Death, is as enchanting and striking as it could be, well […]

  13. 13

    Eric said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 5:22 pm

    Please fix the paypal button/link.

  14. 14

    Mari Mitchell said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

    This was perfect chioce, done fawlessly.

    It boutght to mind Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”. In that story, the upper classes are trying to avoid the plauge/death and give a party that death attends.

    I think I shall read it again so that I might better conpare the two.

  15. 15

    Rachel H. said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 8:45 pm

    Thank you for bringing this story into my world — I know it’s an “oldie” but it’s also a “goodie” that I somehow managed to miss, despite being a moderate Beagle fan.

  16. 16

    Ashley P. said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 9:14 pm

    Paul Jenkins did a great job narrating this story. After this story (and of course, let’s not forget The Sandman) I’m beginning to think a female Death is way cooler than the typical scythe-wielding robed stereotype.

    Great start to what I’m sure will be an awesome podcast!

  17. 17

    artm said,

    April 2, 2008 @ 7:54 am

    In Russian language and culture Death is feminine and female. Sometimes she is referred simply as “Starukha” (Old Woman / the Hag).

    The first time i read “He” when referring to Death, it felt comic. And I bet it’s translator’s nightmare.

  18. 18

    Chainring said,

    April 2, 2008 @ 7:57 am

    I get to be the first to say: Best PodCastle Ever!

    But seriously – great story, great reading. If this is representative of what we can expect from PC, then I’ll be very pleased.

  19. 19

    Christopher Kastensmidt said,

    April 2, 2008 @ 9:32 am

    Congratulations on the launch!

    I’ve been a supporter of Escape Pod for a while, and I’m glad to see PodCastle up and running as I’m a bigger fan of fantasy and will be glad to have a new fantasy story each week.

    I’m also spreading the word down in Brazil.

    Thanks for all the hard work to get this up and running.

  20. 20

    LaVaughn said,

    April 2, 2008 @ 11:13 am

    I can’t believe I missed this story until now! Thanks for allowing me to experience it in its full podcasted glory!

  21. 21

    Awesomeness: Captivating Short Stories at The Fuzzy Slug said,

    April 2, 2008 @ 11:52 am

    […] Listen to Come Lady Death by Peter S. Beagle […]

  22. 22

    Paris said,

    April 2, 2008 @ 12:08 pm

    Wonderful story and reading!
    I’m in search of more Peter S. Beagle.

  23. 23

    Russ Matthews said,

    April 2, 2008 @ 4:03 pm

    Congratulations on your official launch!

    The birth of PodCastle seems very natural and after this first issue stands instantly, in my mind, shoulder to shoulder with EscapePod and PseudoPod as far as great story podcasts are concerned.

    The story you chose to start off with was a very strong one. I heartily agree with an earlier poster who thought that starting off the cast with a tale about death and the passing of the torch to be an excellent choice. Way to go guys, rock solid straight out of the gate!

  24. 24

    John Michaels said,

    April 2, 2008 @ 5:36 pm

    I loved the story. As it started, I was reminded of Poe’s “Mask of the Red Death.” This story greatly differed in that it should the grace and the face of death. Thank you and I look forward to future episodes.

  25. 25

    Program Witch Pages said,

    April 2, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

    PodCastle, The Fantasy Fiction Podcast…

    I discovered a new podcast today for the fantasy literature lover in you, PodCastle. PodCastle is brought to you by the same people who gave us EscapePod, the science fiction podcast magazine, and Pseudopod, the sound of horror. …

  26. 26

    Maztec said,

    April 2, 2008 @ 8:33 pm

    Having read this and written my response and now noting that my response is gone, after reading other peoples responses. The only thing I ask is – is there a rule, I have missed somewhere, forbaying people from responding to the stories and drawing relationships to other stories they have read?

    Otherwise, it appears Podcastle has started an early tradition of deleting comments. Unless, of course, it was accidental. Which I can accept – but tend to prefer a bit of openness about “Oops, sorry, we deleted the first 12 hours of comments.”

  27. 27

    admin said,

    April 2, 2008 @ 9:16 pm


    I’m very sorry about that. In addition to launching on April 1, we also changed servers for the Web site that evening. I investigated, and it looks like your initial comment was the only one posted on the old server before the switchover. It was just bad timing — we weren’t expecting anyone to comment so fast after the story’s launch.

    For everyone else, Maztec’s initial comment was:

    Great start! I found this story to be compelling, but familiar. In some ways it reminded me of the other/faery-world scene in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell. To some extent it even fulfilled the story desires created by that particular scene and story.

    Well played and keep up the good work!

  28. 28

    TurboFool said,

    April 3, 2008 @ 1:02 am

    What a fitting and powerful start to PodCastle. Congratulations on the new podcast. I’ve spent the last couple of months enjoying the hell out of Escape Pod, and it seemed logical to subscribe to this one as well.

    I haven’t classically seen myself as a fan of fantasy, per se, or at least the stereotype of fantasy. But as of late I’ve begun to realize just how diverse the concept of fantasy truly is, and your first metacast confirmed to me that I’ll get just that from PodCastle, and it’s truly exciting.

    Thank you for the strong beginning and I look forward to much more to come.

  29. 29

    Martin R said,

    April 3, 2008 @ 9:12 am

    Well done, congratulations! I didn’t like Beagle’s novels when reading them around the age of 20, but I liked this story. A particularly deft touch is when Beagle speaks about Death the character, using phrases equally applicable to death the … death.

  30. 30

    Lise said,

    April 3, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

    Beagle is one of my favorite authors, and this story is a particular favorite of mine. It makes me happy that it’s Podcastle’s premier story, and the reading is very well done.


  31. 31

    treed said,

    April 3, 2008 @ 6:29 pm

    i know you have gotten tons of comments saying what i am about to, but i gotta say it. This was the most wonderful story i have ever heard. both sinister and endearing, dark and light hearted, it leaves you feeling both sad and happy. i almost cried at the end, knowing the lady’s pain and sensing Deaths joy at her own release, it was a truly marvolous ending (I had not read or heard this story before). The author knows how to build you up into anticipation with wit, sarcasm and humor, waiting for that expected party, then slides a curve ball at you, catching you off guard and slamming you with mixed emotions in a way that it leaves you wanting more. the narator did an excellent job of reading, great infliction and emotion. production was top notch. can’t wait for the next story to come from podcastle… Thomas

  32. 32

    Hawthorne said,

    April 3, 2008 @ 9:37 pm

    amazing first story!! i hope to hear much more goodness and will gladly drink it up.

  33. 33

    Elizabeth GM said,

    April 3, 2008 @ 11:05 pm

    Hooray! I’m so excited that Podcastle is here. The first story was a fabulous pick – and, like Maztec, I was also reminded of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

    Paul Jenkins’ narration was wonderfully understated; it really added to the creepy sense of anticipation and uncanniness.

    Congratulations. I can’t wait for 002 to come out.

  34. 34

    Dragonchasers » Podcastle is live! said,

    April 4, 2008 @ 6:53 pm

    […] folks who bring you Escape Pod and PsuedoPod) launched. The first story was Peter Beagle’s Come Lady Death and it was marvelously read by Paul Jenkins of The Rev Up Review […]

  35. 35

    AmberBug said,

    April 5, 2008 @ 12:48 am

    Great story to launch with, nicely written nicely read. Although I expected the ending from the beginning I liked the lead up and enjoyed the turns the story took.

  36. 36

    Maztec said,

    April 6, 2008 @ 6:23 pm

    @admin: Oops! My apologies for the accusation. I was totally confused at the disappearance. Good to hear it was accidental. 🙂 Keep up the good work!

  37. 37

    acboock said,

    April 6, 2008 @ 10:45 pm

    You should be very proud of your newborn. Waiting for the birth and all the hard work you did to get ready must have been difficult. But now the world has a new pod entity to love and enjoy along with the rest of the family…Escape pod and Pseudopod. Look how they have grown! Welcome to the world PodCastle…we are very glad you’re here.

  38. 38

    Life Lemons said,

    April 9, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

    This was an amazing beginning! I’ve listened to escape pod for a couple of months, and got really excited when I heard about PC because my favorite genre is undoubtedly fantasy. This first story is a great example of the darker aspects of fantasy and I can’t wait to hear whats next.

    This was actually my first encounter with Beagle’s work, but it got me excited. The notion of a strikingly beautiful female death is amazing, although some what expected from the title. I do wish that someone in the group had spoken up, however, when Death asked if they wanted her to stay. It seemed very hypocritical of every one who ignored her all night to now love her so much that they wanted her to stay.

  39. 39

    Audita Sum said,

    April 9, 2008 @ 10:08 pm

    It didn’t thrill me, but I did like Paul Jenkin’s narration. The subdued tone of his voice was good for this sort of story.

  40. 40

    Julio said,

    April 15, 2008 @ 9:16 pm

    Death in portuguese is also feminine (my language), but in french, spanish too. I guess all latin languages.

  41. 41

    Dave said,

    April 19, 2008 @ 4:47 pm

    An excellent way to kick off the new ‘cast! Great work, everyone, and congratulations!

  42. 42

    mr. bernie said,

    April 21, 2008 @ 7:51 pm

    Incredible way to start off the site!! I really enjoyed the story, it had many interesting elements. Congratulations to podCastle and I hope they keep on going with these kinds of stories, they truly are worth the time. Congratulations again, and thanks for the good time!

  43. 43

    Homo Sum » Blog Archive » Bookish Bits: A Miscellany said,

    April 27, 2008 @ 12:01 am

    […] from in the F/SF genre. They got my attention with their first reading, of Peter Beagle’s Come Lady Death. There are several more stories there now, as […]

  44. 44

    David said,

    May 2, 2008 @ 4:56 am

    I thought that this was a rather creative story. It makes a great starting point for a podcast. It was very much worth the wait.

  45. 45

    The Fix | From the Podosphere: April 2008 said,

    May 15, 2008 @ 10:32 am

    […] was privileged to narrate PodCastle’s inaugural story myself, Peter S. Beagle’s “Come Lady Death” so I’ll say no more about it and pass on to the first of PodCastle’s flash […]

  46. 46

    Potter08 said,

    May 16, 2008 @ 11:46 am

    I really was hooked on the story this week, BUT… it drove me crazy everytime anyone said the name of the town. It’s Johns-Town, not Johnston. Sorry, but I grew up near and in Johnstown and I really hated hearing the mispronunciation of the name of a place I’ve read about and lived in.

    Otherwise, I really liked hearing about a supernatural way that the town has been flooded over the years. Most people have never heard of Johnstown at this point. At one time, this small town in Pennsylvania was huge.

  47. 47

    Jaxon said,

    June 17, 2008 @ 1:47 pm

    Nicely done! I was put off by the title but got hooked by the narrator’s excellent delivery. I found myself as an observer off to the side in awe of the foolishness of the noble woman and her sycophants. The writer was also very clever in portraying the character of death as sympathetic pawn in the big picture all creation.

  48. 48

    [put title here] » Blog Archive » Another Podcast I’m Liking said,

    October 1, 2008 @ 11:28 pm

    […] added the the first installment of PodCastle: “Come Lady Death”ome Lady Death I have to say I wasn’t expecting to like this because I don’t […]

  49. 49

    Tylenol. said,

    November 10, 2008 @ 5:44 am



  50. 50

    WAS1 Productions » Blog Archive » Podcastle and Girl Power said,

    April 24, 2010 @ 3:11 am

    […] started off with one of Peter S. Beagle’s (of “The Last Unicorn”) early works, Come Lady Death. Another story is a retelling of a classic Grimm’s fairytale, Goosegirl, which gets into the […]

  51. 51

    Death of the Literary Form (No, Strike That, Reverse it) « the eye of the beholder said,

    April 17, 2012 @ 1:43 pm

    […] S. Beagle came in years before that, in 1963, with his short story “Come, Lady Death“.  As always, I can’t say enough good things about Peter S. Beagle.  Gaiman is the […]

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