Archive for Rated R

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 340: Your Figure Will Assume Beautiful Outlines

by Claire Humphrey

Read by Sue Brophy

Originally published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, November 2013. Read it here!

“How’d you like a match next decadi?” said Mr. Karinen. I’d been sparring with his lads since Plum-day, my knuckles scuffing open and seeping into my wraps. My Da poured vinegar over them until they finally healed over into dark pink scars.

“Yes, sir!” I said. “Which I’ll do you and Da proud.”

“No doubt of it, Valma, no doubt of it. There’s one thing, though, you see. The Provosts, they won’t allow lasses in the ring. There’s lasses among the Provosts, not that you can tell them for such without a hair on their heads. Why they can do magic but not fight, I don’t know, but it’s the Provosts’ law to make and ours to live under. But I know just the fellow who will help.”

Hanno Jalmarinen, charm-master, lived behind a copper-worked door at the end of a long alley. He measured me up and down with his little pale eyes and then made me stand still for a half-hour while he did mysteries about me, and then he went to his workbench and muttered over a bit of metal for a moment. Two hundred soldats, it cost Mr. Karinen, and I thought it a vast sum indeed, but when I put on the charm Mr. Karinen said it was excellent work.

The charm was a fine copper ring to go about my littlest finger, flat enough that it would not be felt beneath my wraps, let alone my gloves. “Mind you never take it off,” Mr. Karinen said. “And keep it secret. The Provosts have laws on everything.”

Rated R. Contains violence, sports, alcohol, and burlesque.

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PodCastle 338: Burying the Coin

by Setsu Uzume

Read by Amanda Fitzwater

A PodCastle Original!

I pour him a drink and place it on his desk, then return to the sideboard to bring over the light supper the steward prepared. I barely have my hands on the silver tray when he speaks again.

“Karelia… this paper is nearly three weeks old. Why is it on my desk?”

I set the tray with his supper down just to the side of the paper. “My apologies, Captain; I’ll remove it right away.”

I reach for the paper and his hand slaps mine onto the wood. My index finger presses to one of the smaller front-page articles, just a few lines of text under the title: Colonial Auction.

The very auction where I’ve asked Detailmen to meet me and deliver Grel to the law once and for all.

With his other hand, he picks up the paper and looks at it. He releases me and I step back from him and clasp my hands behind my back, wiping his touch from my skin.

“Treasures of the south to be returned to civilization,” he reads.

Rated R: Contains violence, sometimes hauntingly so.

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PodCastle 337: Thirteen Incantations

by Desirina Boskovich

Read by Tina Connolly

Originally published in Realms of Fantasy, February 2011.

Elisabeth had been curious about the Victorian house for years.  Once she was inside, it won her over.  The house was filled with ephemera, harvested from a lifetime of travel: copper plates, ceramic vases, Persian rugs in burgundy and yellow, eclectic art pieces.  Window shelves held glass bottles in turquoise and blue.  Crystals dangled over the kitchen sink, spinning rainbows from light.  Potted plants grew lush.  Nothing matched.  It was a mishmash of beloved things that formed a charmingly incoherent whole.

The two girls sat in Ana Celina’s room.  Ana Celina’s gray cat rubbed at their ankles, demanding affection.  They talked about college; it was all anyone talked about these days. Elisabeth was going to a state university three hours away.  Ana Celina was headed to a school in London.  “I need a break from Neve,” she explained.

“Neve?”

“My mom.  Come on.  I’ll introduce you.  She’s probably down in her secret lab.”  Ana Celina rolled her eyes.

Elisabeth followed Ana Celina through the house–down the stairs, past the kitchen, to a closed door.  Ana Celina knocked, then paused, waiting for the muffled “come in.”

Ana Celina opened the door and fragrance rushed out like the surf.  Fleeting florals, ripe fruits, fresh greenery, ancient spices: each scent struggled to make itself known.  Stunned, Elizabeth gazed around the room.  It was large, and filled with shelves. Each shelf was lined with trays.  Each tray was packed with finger-sized vials.

Rated R. Contains Young Love.

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