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PodCastle 516a: 10th Anniversary Special, The Best of PodCastle #5 – Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy

Show Notes

Rated R. Contains violence, including gore.

Editors’ note: This episode originally aired as PodCastle 324. We are reissuing it to celebrate PodCastle’s 10th anniversary. This story was in fourth/fifth place in a listener vote that was held to determine PodCastle’s most-loved episodes over the past decade.


Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy

by Saladin Ahmed

I do not know how he brought us to this land of blood and iron masks. I know only that I am a real man trapped in a mad landscape of living lessons.

My brothers and I were spirited here from my home in…Damascus? Yes, praise be to God that I can remember that. The sound of the street-preachers, and the smells of the spice vendors’ stalls.

Damascus.

We were sipping tea in a room with green carpets, and I was laughing at a jest that…that someone was making. Who? The face, the voice, the name have been stolen from me. All I know is that my brothers and I suddenly found ourselves in this twisted place, each aware of the others’ fates, but unable to find one another. Unable to find any escape.

Now my eldest brother has been slain. And my next eldest brother has disappeared.

Who am I? I do not know how he changed our names. But in this world of lions and giants and the blinding shine of armor, I am called Joyless, as if it were a name.

It was not my name. It is not my name. But this is his place, and it follows his commands.

 

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PodCastle 515, ARTEMIS RISING: Propagating Peonies

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


This time, you were a burgeoning peony at the edge of a small cottage garden, stems ladened with clusters of dark fuchsia petals. Your scent perfumed the afternoon air, enveloping me as I walked my solitary way home. I did not want to wait for you.

I crept back towards the village that night, with the knife I’d plunged into your chest two human lives ago, when I discovered you at the Inn with another woman. The blade was blunt with age and use and it shredded your stem as I tried to take a cutting of you for myself. The worn handle slipped in my palms and its edge sliced into my thumb. Your heady fragrance mingled with the rust smell of the wound made me light-headed, as if I were fighting against the sweep of a thousand chaotic feathers. I managed to fold a piece of you in the blood-speckled hem of my blouse and went home to transplant you in my garden.

You shriveled up and died during the night. Peonies, I learned, could not be propagated by cuttings. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 514, ARTEMIS RISING: My Heart the Bullet in the Chamber

Show Notes

Rated R, for shootin’, cussin’, and rollin’ in the hay.


My Heart the Bullet in the Chamber

by Stephanie Charette

They said I wouldn’t feel anything from the waist down but that was a lie from the first contraction. Yet when the good doctor took away the baby — healthy, crying — and offered that blood-christened Spencer Repeater in her place, I cradled its stock and barrel and felt the fires of justice in my hands.

I will never know my daughter. She will be but one more child in the communal creche, just as I was, to be raised by women who choose not to take a gun.

I earned my gun. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 513, ARTEMIS RISING: We Head for the Horizon and Return with Bloodshot Eyes

Show Notes

Rated PG-13, for war and gore.


We Head for the Horizon and Return with Bloodshot Eyes

by Eleanna Castroianni

August 14th, 1949

Near Kançikon, Pindhos

The heart had already stopped beating — small animal in glistening glory, trapped between rosy lungs. Burgundy liver and sickly gall I passed; bones and marrow hold more secrets. Intoxicated, I shoved my hands into the soldier’s lush entrails — still so warm — and moved them around, making them swish and rustle like mouldy autumn leaves. I sought for patterns; I listened, waiting for echoes of the Next World, waiting for the Voices that Know and Tell.

My breath got caught in my throat and for a few moments I couldn’t find air. As I hastily drew my bloodied hands out of the soldier’s belly, I burst into a cough so strong I thought I’d spit my guts on top of the butchered soldier. Vanghelio, battling her sickness at what I had been doing, turned to face me. She grabbed my wrists and steadied me on the ground.

“Nafsika,” she begged, “what happened? What did you see?”

I won’t write what I saw, not until we are closer to Base. Bones and entrails never lie and I’m not risking the enemy getting hold of this notebook. Before I joined the army I was a butcher’s daughter who saw the future in the remains of dead animals on my father’s table. Every single time I was right, no matter how little the Major wanted to believe me. Now I need to write this story down because I know what I saw in those bones, because our comrades are in danger, because soon the royalist fascists will be here. Because Major didn’t believe me and now I have a chance to save myself, to save Vanghelio.

We’re going back, mission aborted. (Continue Reading…)