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PodCastle 596: The Satyr of Brandenburg — Part 1

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


The Satyr of Brandenburg

By Charlotte Ashley

By the inebriated light of dawn, October the 23rd, 1700, a swarthy figure skulked in the rosebushes lining the Villa del Sulcis, outside the Sardinian town of Soleminis. The lurker clambered onto the tavern’s windowsill muttering badly hushed curses, then clumsily mounted the trellises. After a noisy minute of climbing, the figure leaped for the nearest second-story balcony, catching it by the fingertips.

Only the most carefree of slumbering inhabitants could have ignored such a racket. Draperies parted, hinting at drawn pistols and blades at the ready as several sets of wary eyes sought the cause of the disturbance. After a short investigation, a tall woman with hair the color of moldy straw threw aside her thick curtain and leaned out over the railing of her window.

“Alex?” she demanded, holstering a pistol. “What in the hells are you doing?”

“Shit,” the climber grunted, getting hold of the balcony’s iron bars and struggling to lift her foot over her head. “Héron, help me up. I think I’ve got a thorn in my thumb.”

The tall woman stood straight, crossing her arms over her chest. “You’re drunk.” (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 595: The Feast

Show Notes

Rated R.


The Feast

By K.C. Mead-Brewer

We took Emmaline on what promised to be a particularly stormy night. It wasn’t hard to do, especially since all the police and alarm company people were right there in the mob with us. Her mother, Rebecca, had to be restrained by five different people; the sheriff had to lock her in a holding cell to keep her secured.

We brought Emmaline to the closest beach and tied her to a giant lightning rod that we’d planted in the sand not far from the water. The choice of sacrifice via lightning strike surprised a lot of people, but we didn’t have a volcano to toss her into or any grand golden steps like the Mayans to push her down from. And if we were going to make the sacrifice count, if we really wanted our crops to flourish and satisfy, it made sense to us that the more drama we could build up, the better. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 594: The Deliverers of Their Country

Show Notes

Rated PG.


The Deliverers of Their Country

By E. Nesbit

It all began with Effie’s getting something in her eye. It hurt very much indeed, and it felt something like a red-hot spark — only it seemed to have legs as well, and wings like a fly. Effie rubbed and cried— not real crying, but the kind your eye does all by itself without your being miserable inside your mind — and then she went to her father to have the thing in her eye taken out. Effie’s father was a doctor, so of course he knew how to take things out of eyes — he did it very cleverly with a soft paintbrush dipped in castor oil.

When he had gotten the thing out, he said: “This is very curious.” Effie had often got things in her eye before, and her father had always seemed to think it was natural — rather tiresome and naughty perhaps, but still natural. He had never before thought it curious.

Effie stood holding her handkerchief to her eye, and said: “I don’t believe it’s out.” People always say this when they have had something in their eyes.

“Oh, yes — it’s out,” said the doctor. “Here it is, on the brush. This is very interesting.”

Effie had never heard her father say that about anything that she had any share in. She said: “What?” (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 593: Balloon Man

Show Notes

Rated PG.


Balloon Man

By Shiv Ramdas

If it hadn’t been for the camel, Mithun might never have noticed the old balloon seller at all. He almost didn’t notice the camel either. If he’d been looking for it, he probably wouldn’t have.

Like so many other parts of Northern India, Qaisarbagh Bazaar wasn’t so much a place that time forgot as much as it was a place that had forgotten time, or at the very least, had pointedly refused to acknowledge its existence. To Mithun’s left, men in pathani kurtas herded goats past cellphone towers, never looking up. To his right, vendors pushed carts piled high with sweet-smelling fruit, bright clothes and trinkets under dangling electricity lines, ignoring the half-buried cables underfoot as they called out to passers-by as a steady stream of cars, bicycles and cycle-rickshaws swerved and cursed their way down the narrow cobbled streets. All in all, it was an explosion of sights, sounds and smells, a patchwork of colour and chaos of the sort that is so much more appealing on Exotic India postcards than when experienced in the flesh. Partly because it makes a lot of things rather difficult, such as the mundane yet surprisingly useful exercise that is finding things just by looking for them.

As Mithun stood there, he found the camel staring back at him, unblinking. Then slowly, deliberately, it jerked its head sideways, at the old man with the bent back and straggly grey beard, standing there between the paan-seller with bad teeth and the cigarette-vendor shouting discounts at schoolchildren, half-hidden in the shadow of the crumbling clock-tower. And that was when Mithun noticed the balloons.

Indeed, he couldn’t help but notice them, for these were no ordinary balloons. No, they were massive, lustrous, the most wondrous balloons you ever saw. Above the spotless white Gandhi topi on the old man’s head, a beautiful blue-green globe, the earth itself, or perhaps not quite, floating right there. Beside it, much larger, the fiery citrus glow of the reluctant red of the setting sun giving way to a soothing orange. Next to that, a small one, half translucent, half black, the moon being eaten by Rahu, just like in the myths the teacher read out every Friday.

Mithun looked at his mother, but she failed to notice him, being still engrossed in the vital task of securing an extra half kilo of lentils at no additional cost. An additional half kilo that he already knew it would be his destiny to spend the evening carrying around the bazaar. He looked back at the balloons, and as he watched, one of them, an impossibly radiant five pointed star, floated heavenwards, and then exploded in a shower of iridescence, each fragment now a star in its own right. This was the first thing Mithun noticed.

The second was that he seemed to be the only person who had noticed it.

“Come here, boy.” (Continue Reading…)