Archive for Giants

PodCastle 341, Giant Episode: Balfour and Meriwether in the Incident of the Harrowmoor Dogs

By Daniel Abraham

Read by Paul Jenkins (of the Skepticule podcast)

Originally published as a novella by Subterranean Press. Pick up your copy here!

It was the twenty-eighth of April, 188- and a day of warmth, beauty, and commerce in the crowded streets of London, but Lord Carmichael’s features had a distinctly wintery aspect.  He stood by the front window of the King Street flat, scowling down at the cobbled streets.  The snifter of brandy in his left hand was all but forgotten.  Behind his back, Meriwether caught Balfour’s gaze and lifted his eyebrows.  Balfour stroked his broad mustache and cleared his throat.  The sound was very nearly an apology.  For a long moment, it seemed Lord Carmichael had not so much as heard it, but then he heaved a great sigh and turned back to the men.

The flat itself was in a state of utter disarray.  The remains of the breakfast sat beside the empty fire grate, and the body of a freshly slaughtered pig lay stretched out across the carpeted floor, its flesh marked out in squares by lines of lampblack and a variety of knives protruding from it, one in each square.  Meriwether’s silver flute perched upon the mantle in a nest of musical notation, and a half-translated treatise on the effects of certain new world plant extracts upon human memory sat abandoned on the desk.  Lord Carmichael’s eyes lifted to the two agents of the Queen as he stepped over the porcine corpse and took his seat.

“I’m afraid we have need of you, boys,” Lord Carmichael said.  “Daniel Winters is missing.”

“Surely not an uncommon occurrence,” Meriwether said, affecting a lightness of tone.  “My understanding was that our friend Winters has quite the reputation for losing himself in the fleshpots of the empire between missions.  I would have expected him to have some difficulty finding himself, most mornings.”

“He wasn’t between missions,” Lord Carmichael said.  “He was engaged in an enquiry.”

“Queen’s business?” Balfour said.

“Indirectly.  It was a blue rose affair.”

Balfour sat forward, thick fists under his chin and a flinty look in his eyes.  Among all the concerns and intrigues that Lord Carmichael had the managing of, the blue rose affairs were the least palatable not from any moral or ethical failure — Balfour and Meriwether understood the near-Jesuitical deformations of ethics and honor that the defense of the Empire could require — but rather because they were so often lacking in the rigor they both cultivated.  When a housewife in Bath woke screaming that a fairy had warned her of a threat against the Queen, it was a blue rose affair.  When a young artist lost his mind and slaughtered prostitutes, painting in their blood to open a demonic gate, it was a blue rose affair.  When a professor of economics was tortured to the edge of madness by dreams of an ancient and sleeping god turning foul and malefic eyes upon the human world, it was a blue rose affair.  And so almost without fail, they were wastes of time and effort, ending in conformations of hysteria that posed no threat and offered no benefit to anyone sane.  Meriwether took his seat, propping his heels on the dead pig.  As if in response, a bit of trapped gas escaped the hog like a sigh.

Rated R: Contains violence and monsters in the Victorian fashion.

 

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PodCastle 334, Giant Episode: Quartermaster Returns

by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Read by Roberto Suarez

Originally published in Eclipse 1, Edited by Jonathan Strahan. Check out Prophecies, Libels, & Dreams – Ysabeau S. Wilce’s new collection coming soon from Small Beer Press!

When Pow walks into the hog ranch, everyone turns to stare at shim. At the whist table, the muleskinner gurgles and lets fall his cards. The cardsharp’s teeth clatter against the rim of his glass. The cowboy squeaks. At the bar, the barkeep, who had been fishing flies out of the pickle jar, drops her pickle fork. On the bar, the cat, a fantastic mouser named Queenie, narrows her moon-silver eyes into little slits. At the pianny, Lotta, who’d been banging out Drink Puppy Drink on the peeling ivory keys, crashes one last chord and no more.

Even the ice elemental, in the cage suspended over the whist table, ceases his languid fanning. He’s seen a lot of boring human behavior since the barkeep brought him from a junk store in Wal-nuts to keep the hog ranch cool; finally a human has done some- thing interesting. Only Fort Gehenna’s scout doesn’t react. He wipes his nose on a greasy buckskin sleeve, slams another shot of mescal, and takes the opportunity to peek at his opponents’ cards.

The bar-room is dead silent but for a distant slap and a squeal—Buck and the peg-boy in the back room exercising—and the creak of the canvas walls shifting in the ever-present Arivaipa wind.

Rated R. Contains lots of alcohol, some death, and some undeath.

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PodCastle 316, Giant Episode: The Meaning of Love

by Daniel Abraham.
Read by M.K. Hobson.
Originally appeared in Rogues edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.


The name Sovereign North Bank referred to a strip of land along the river Taunis within the great city of Nevripal, but not of it. It existed first as an accident of politics. When, centuries before, the wizards of the Hanish Empire sued for peace after the War of Ten Emperors, the lands surrounding the slow, dark river were ceded to the Council of Nestripon, but an exception was made for the Hanish winter palace and its grounds which were the favorites of the Empress. In a sentimental gesture of good faith that often follows wars between monarchs who are also family, the land remained technically within the Hanish Empire, though no official or citizen remained there. The mayor and burgers of Nevripal, not sharing the familial fondness for their defeated enemies, declared that the Sovereign North Bank was, in essence, its own problem. With no Hanish to oversee it and no Nestripon willing to take responsibility, it became that rarest of all places: an autonomous zone where the law protected and enforced lawlessness.
Over the ages since, the north bank had become a curiosity. The detritus of a dozen cultures found their way there, or were forced to it when there was no other refuge. The sluggish, dark waters of the Taunis carried barges and rafts to the muddy shores. Criminals and debtors fled to it, refugees of wars national and domestic, the addicted and the poverty-lost. And like the vast and mindless organism that it was, the Sovereign North Bank grew.
That there were no magistrates did not mean there were no planners, no architects, no geniuses or madmen. Rather it meant there was no restraint to those who lived there and invented.

Rated R for violence, strong language and sex.

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PodCastle 292, Giant Episode: Scry

by Anne Ivy

Read by Elizabeth Green Musselman

Originally published at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Read it here!

By dawn, the house of Eyr Eth Lun had fallen. Dead soldiers and laser-cauterized pieces of soldiers littered the stairs and bridges into the palace. The sun rose slowly over the spires, flushing the sky pink and pale blue, gleaming off broken glass, bringing color to the gore. Anubises, wading into the midst of the detritus, carried the bodies away. The dead, victorious and defeated alike, all went to the crematorium together.

The metal gates into the house hung warped and melted on their hinges. The inside echoed, empty, threatening. The first to set foot on the foyer’s metal floor had been electrocuted.

Eyr Eth Lun and his liege, the fugitive prince Ben Tur Ibren, were long gone. Some of Karnon Nameless Dae’s followers hoped their quarry—Lun and Ibren—was hiding somewhere in the house, sure to be flushed out. Most knew better. Lun’s soldiers had fought with the desperate furor of those who knew themselves dead. They’d been fighting to buy their masters time to escape, not to save their own lives. They’d succeeded, and their ranks—brave, loyal, and dead—lay in unflinching testament to the cost of Lun’s contingency plan.

Rated R: Contains some violence and sex.

Dramatis Personae:

Eyre Isri Esth: The finest scryer on the planet, and the wife, or former wife, of Lun.

Eyr eth Lun: Esth’s former husband, head of a royal house, and protector of the fugitive prince Ibren.

Ben Tur Ibren: The fugitive prince, who is being hunted down by Karnun Dae.

Karnun Nameless Dae: An alien bent on revolution, and overthrowing the prince and his supporters.

 

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