PodCastle Episode 289: Rumor of Wings

by Alter S. Reiss

Read by M.K. Hobson

Originally published in Abyss & Apex.

When the shore-men of the Liassen dockyards saw the blinded ship by the first gray light of dawn, they turned their eyes away, and put their backs to their work. When sailors saw that ship, the deep gouges and angry red paint where its eyes ought to be struck them harder. They blanched as they turned away, or they walked back from the docks, spitting twice over each shoulder. One old veteran, deep lines in his face from wind and spray, fell to his knees, and pledged two fine bullocks to the sea, should he survive his next voyage.

There were few sailors who believed that a ship’s eyes would see it through storm and past reefs, but there were fewer who would be
willing to sign aboard a ship whose eyes had been put out, and with red paint, no less. That was the way of sailors–they might have no faith in charms and good omens, but they had infinite belief in curses and foul omens. Whoever owned the ship with the blinded eyes would get no crew at all, even after the eyes were repainted, without some showy exorcism: A half dozen priests in heavy robes, with flute and cymbal, or perhaps some mountain holy man, or witch, or tamed demon.

It was all more or less as Alaneth had hoped, but she could not feel any great satisfaction as a handful of the shore-men were coaxed
aboard by one of the port officers, and set to lowering a length of sailcloth over the ship’s prow, to cover those blinded eyes, so that the other operations of Liassen’s harbor would not be so greatly affected. She was close, but she had been close before. It was too much to believe that this time her leads would prove genuine, that what she sought would not slip through her fingers again.

Rated PG.

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PodCastle Episode 288: Flash Fiction Contest Strikes Back!

This week we’re back with a special episode collecting the winners of our recent flash fiction contest! A huge congratulations to our winners – we’re looking forward to hearing more stories from them!

3rd Prize:
“Georgina and the Basilisk,” by Leslianne Wilder
Read by LaShawn Wanak

Georgina has not moved the newspapers in years, only let them pile one on top of the other, showing assassinations and exploding towers, skinny white girls with fake breasts- probably singers or actresses, wars in countries she doesn’t know. She’s too old to bother learning names or places. Twice a day, the woman who is not a real nurse comes to Georgina’s house to empty Georgina’s catheter bag and paw through Georgina’s silverware. The non-nurse barely speaks English. She insists she’s tidying, but Georgina knows she’s picking for cash, jewelry, heirlooms. The agency won’t send someone different; they use words like “false reports” and threaten not to send anyone at all. When the non- nurse leaves, Georgina sits alone in the stale heat of the old house with the basilisk.

2nd Prize:
“The Bear,” by Taven Moore

Read by Christiana Ellis

“I haven’t seen the bear in months,” I lie.

My lips curve into the smile of a sane woman. A smile practiced in a mirror late at night. White teeth against red lips. Just the right amount of crinkle at the edges of my eyes.

1st Prize:
“Wuffle,” by Chantal Beaulne
Read by Nathaniel Lee

The wizard entered the barber shoppe the way most did – with great effort, feet planted on either side of the doorframe, and assisted by the barber’s two beefy arms. Resisting their combined labour was the wizard’s beard. It clung to a lamppost outside, whining like a devildog sensing his oncoming castration.

Discuss on the forums.

PodCastle Episode 287: Tiktok and the Nome King

by L. Frank Baum

Read by Bob Eccles (Check out his eBook Tiny Terrors, available at Amazon!)

Originally published in Little Wizard Stories of Oz, but you can read it at Tiger Tales!

The Nome King was unpleasantly angry. He had carelessly bitten his tongue at breakfast and it still hurt; so he roared and raved and stamped around in his underground palace in a way that rendered him very disagreeable.

It so happened that on this unfortunate day Tiktok, the Clockwork Man, visited the Nome King to ask a favor. Tiktok lived in the Land of Oz, and although he was an active and important person, he was made entirely of metal. Machinery within him, something like the works of a clock, made him move; other machinery made him talk; still other machinery made him think.

Although so cleverly constructed, the Clockwork Man was far from perfect. Three separate keys wound up his motion machinery, his speech works, and his thoughts. One or more of these contrivances was likely to run down at a critical moment, leaving poor Tiktok helpless. Also some of his parts were wearing out, through much use, and just now his thought machinery needed repair. The skillful little Wizard of Oz had tinkered with Tiktok’s thoughts without being able to get them properly regulated, so he had advised the Clockwork Man to go to the Nome King and secure a new set of springs, which would render his thoughts more elastic and responsive.

Rated G.

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PodCastle 286: The Calendar of Saints

by Kat Howard

Read by Amal El-Mohtar

Originally published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Read it here!

The first time I used a blade to defend a point of honor, both the blade and the honor were mine. I was perhaps eight, and Rosamaria Sandro had accused me of copying her mathematics exam. The next time we were in the salle, I told her I would prove her a liar with my blade. She stopped laughing at the idea when I hit her for the third time with the blunted end of my sword and made her tell our mathematics instructor the truth. The pomp and ceremony of today’s events have nothing in common with that juvenile scuffle but the blade.

The blade, of course, is what matters. It is as sharp, as edged, as fatal as truth.

The subject of this Arbitration stands to the left of the dueling grounds, tiny white teeth sunk so deep into her lip that it, too, whitens. Her fiancé hovers close by, as if to shield her from the events or perhaps from their consequences. I wonder if he will put her aside if I am defeated. I want to think that he will stay with her, that his protective posture is a sign of genuine attachment rather than a signal of possession. Laurelle is beautiful, and wealthy. The things that have been whispered about her would never have been said so viciously if it were otherwise. So it is possible he stands at her back because of reasons other than love, but I do not wish to believe in them.

Rated R. Contains swords, which are sharp, edged, and fatal.

Discuss on the forums.

PodCastle 285: Dragonslayer

by Nathaniel Lee

Read by Elie Hirschman

Originally published in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show

Handel, the barman, tucked a pair of half-pennies into the pouch at his waist and turned to regard the boy as he approached.  The young man had the look of a servant of some kind, though he wore no livery or sigil.  Clean and healthy, at least, if a bit old for squiring or apprenticeship.

“Yuh?” Handel said by way of greeting.

The boy blinked pale green eyes at him, the color of mown grass.  “My master, Sir Timor, requires lodging for the night.  He begs a small room and four stalls in the barn.”  With a clink, the boy set down a golden sovereign on the bar.  Handel tried not to choke; the coin was enough to rent every room in the ramshackle two-story building.

“He has a fair… a fair few horses, eh?”  Handel’s voice was unsteady, but his hands made the coin disappear with barely a whisper of motion.

The boy shrugged.  “Don’t get too excited.  You’ll probably need the extra coin for the repairs.”  He headed for the door again.  “I’ll get him settled, and then I’ll come back for his meal.  Get some vegetables in it; I’m sick to death of meat.”

“Wait!” Handel had accommodated a fair few Knights and would-be Lords in his day, and this was not going according to the pattern.  “He’s staying in the barn?”

“It’s an oath.  Very important.” 

Rated PG. Kind of a Temple of Doom PG.

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Escape Artists Metacast Update

EA-Metacast-Art-150x150This quick episode is a round-up of the results of our recent Metacast to ask for subscriptions and donations hosted by Alasdair Stuart.

Thank you so much for the initial response to the problems at Escape Artists!

To review:

1. Escape Artists has a major cash problem. This has been caused by a massive increase in the amount of listeners which has not been accompanied by an increase in donations. In fact those have started to decrease. This situation is unsustainable and we will close at the end of 2013 without a major increase in subscriptions.

2. Click anywhere on this line for the original 44 minute meta-cast from all three shows explaining this.

3. We need money. There are two ways to do this either by donating or subscribing. One off donations are lovely and we’re incredibly grateful. Subscriptions cost you much less and raise our base level of funds on a monthly basis. Those are going to help much more in the mid term.

4. This is Escape Pod’s Homepage. Click on the DONATE or SUBSCRIBE buttons on the right hand side.

5. This is Pseudopod’s Homepage. Click on the DONATE or SUBSCRIBE buttons on the right hand side.

6. This is the Podcastle Homepage. Click on the DONATE or SUBSCRIBE buttons on the right hand side.

7. Click here to donate via Dwolla. Our ID is 812-527-2340

- See more at: http://escapepod.org/#sthash.JBofnt5s.dpuf

Discuss on the forums.

PodCastle 284: The October Witch

by Francesca Forrest

Read by Steve Anderson

Originally published in Kaleidotrope. Read it here!

“Need a lift?” It’s a woman in a pickup truck, maybe Josh’s age, maybe some years older, from the lines on her face. She’s probably been driving this truck since she was fifteen and hasn’t ever left these mountains.

“I’d appreciate it. Just back to the gas station would be great.”

The woman shakes her head. “It’ll be closed by the time we get there. My husband can drop you back in town tomorrow morning—assuming he gets back home tonight; otherwise I will. I’m Audra.” She offers a hand.

“I’m Josh. Pleased to meet you. And thanks.” He climbs in the truck. Audra tells him she works in town at the supermarket and that her husband is a lineman who’s been busy these past two days, restoring power after that amazing thunderstorm (the one that washed out the road where Josh’s car now sits). When she hears that Josh is in a master’s program, studying folklore, she grins.

“Then you must’ve heard about the October witch. I’m surprised you got in the truck with me.”

“October witch? No, I think I missed that one,” says Josh, returning the grin, wondering whether Audra’s spinning a line or if this is a real folktale he’s about to hear. “I guess she comes out on Halloween? And maybe, what, grabs drivers off the road?”

Rated PG. Happy Halloween!

Discuss on the forums.

Escape Artists Needs Your Help!

from http://www.alasdairstuart.com/?p=1611EA-Metacast-Art-150x150

Thank you so much for the initial response to the problems at Escape Artists. As per several requests, this is the TL:DR version of the situation.

1. Escape Artists has a major cash problem. This has been caused by a massive increase in the amount of listeners which has not been accompanied by an increase in donations. In fact those have started to decrease. This situation is unsustainable and we will close at the end of 2013 without a major increase in subscriptions.

2. Click anywhere on this line for the 44 minute meta-cast from all three shows explaining this.

3. We need money. There are two ways to do this either by donating or subscribing. One off donations are lovely and we’re incredibly grateful. Subscriptions cost you much less and raise our base level of funds on a monthly basis. Those are going to help much more in the mid term.

4. This is Escape Pod’s Homepage. Click on the DONATE or SUBSCRIBE buttons on the right hand side.

5. This is Pseudopod’s Homepage. Click on the DONATE or SUBSCRIBE buttons on the right hand side.

6. This is the Podcastle Homepage. Click on the DONATE or SUBSCRIBE buttons on the right hand side.

7. Click here to donate via Dwolla. Our ID is 812-527-2340

I know this is inconvenient and I’m sorry. Any other link will time out to a PayPal login.

That’s it. Thanks for the help.

- See more at: http://escapepod.org/#sthash.AeyGvqPk.dpuf

Discuss on the forums.

PodCastle 283: Right Turns

by Tim Pratt

Read by Marguerite Croft

Originally published in Faultline.

We talked, in our tiny apartment, with the kitchen so small we couldn’t even pass each other on the way to the refrigerator, with our pipes that howled and clanked when we tried to turn on the hot water. I’d just gotten a promotion, and though it meant less teaching and more administrative work, there was also more money coming in. The housing market was good, for buyers. There were a lot of great places to choose from, but none we liked more than the labyrinth house.

“I don’t see the downside,” my husband said, leaning against me companionably in bed. “Really, the whole thing is just more space, square footage we’re not even paying for. The labyrinth could be extra storage, even.”

“What if there are bugs? Rats?”

“Then we brick up the entrance. Looks like it’s been done before, so we can do it again.”

We bought the house. We moved in. We didn’t go into the basement often, just to do laundry, and we didn’t go into the labyrinth at all. Not at first.

I’m not sure when my husband started his explorations. I didn’t find out for a while.

There are a lot of things from those first months I don’t remember.

Rated PG. We guess.

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PodCastle 282: The Sunshine Baron

by Peadar Ó Guilín

Read by Rob Haines

Originally published in When the Villain Comes Home.

Ah, Borquil, lucky Borquil. Many the balconies of his gilded mansion: north over the spice market; east where he sipped tea at dawn; west for opium. And south? Great Borquil _never_ looked south.

The sun shone on the Northern capital as it did every day. Borquil had seen to that. Had grown rich on it: the famous Sunshine Baron! By night, a gentle rain would patter over the fields and fill a few cisterns before sliding gently seawards on the Farg River, sweet-natured these days, ‘though its name meant “angry” in the old tongue.

“I calmed it all down,” muttered Borquil. “Me. They should be more grateful.”

The northerners _had_ shown gratitude at first. The king loved him. Whole provinces voted him honours and over the years, as Borquil grew plump and the nightmares disturbed him less and less, aristocrats welcomed him into their homes. “A foreigner no longer!” they said amongst themselves. “He is truly one of our own!” Sure, they found it odd how he refused to travel more than a day south of the Farg river,
but they too were rich enough to have ghosts they’d rather avoid. As the saying went: “no man lies in his own poop.”

But now, how inconvenient for poor Borquil! Revolution had come to the Kingdom of the North. His aristocratic friends were losing their heads in the streets outside. And the mobs had come for his blood too. The double doors leading to his courtyard splintered and buckled under a battering ram. He had perhaps an hour to live.

Rated R: Contains violence, disturbing themes and situtations.

Discuss on the forums.

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