PodCastle 519: Burning Season

Show Notes

Rating: PG-13, for things unspeakable.

It was burning season in Rashid. Again.

Even in the shop, I could smell the smoke. Can you believe I used to like the smell of burning paper? With my eyes closed, I can still see pages glow red before they burst into flame and curl into ash until they crumble.

I clerked at a small sundries shop in Commercial. The owner was a Duchies woman, one hand peach-pale, the other brown as her shop counter. She had no love for the All-King, who had toppled her Grand Duchess, but you don’t need love to run a business, just enough money to buy mercy. After that expenditure, though, she couldn’t afford to hire a licensed Translator. Coincidentally, I couldn’t afford a license, so she paid me a little extra to quietly broker transactions from the non-Duchies customers and shippers she couldn’t understand.

I am an Omniloquist. Some say we’re a curse the last true Rashidan king put on his enemies before he died, so that we’ll never flounder helpless under a conqueror. More say we have no true power, just an uncanny ability to pick up foreign sounds quickly. Until the All-King came, I was inclined to think the latter. We were a skill with a guild, like any other. And then he came, with his Collectors. There’s nothing natural about them. Maybe there’s nothing natural about us. (Continue Reading…)

PodCastle 518: Iron Aria

Show Notes

Rated PG for vengeful mountains and the accursed dead.

Iron Aria

Merc Rustad

The mountain dreams pain. Cold iron vibrates purple-blue deep in the stone, while tongues made from rot and rust bite and gnaw and hunger ever deeper.

The dam, buried like a tooth in the mountain’s narrow gums, holds back the great burgundy ocean. Otherwise it would pour into the Agate Pass Valley and swallow up the mining town at the mountain’s toes.

From an owl’s eye, the dam is almost as big as the mountain, built five hundred human-years ago. The infesting tongues burrow in from the sea, sent by angry water-memories. The sea cannot see its children in the lakes far beyond the dam. So it sends corrosion into the mountain, into the infinitesimal pores of the dam.

The mountain is being devoured from the inside and it screams. (Continue Reading…)

PodCastle 517: A Fine Balance

Show Notes

Rated PG-13 for honorable duelists and some less honorable warfare.

A Fine Balance

By Charlotte Ashley

My mistress, Shoanna Yildirim, was the greatest shot in the city.

Each morning, according to her wishes, I cleaned and loaded her revolving pistol. I oiled the clip on her holster and checked the stitches in the leatherwork. I strung a fresh sash of weighted bullets and laid it by the vanity over her scarves.

“Your pistol, Mistress,” I would say to her as she rose from the mirror, her wide, brown lips and dark, sly eyes painted to perfection.

“Thank you, Emin,” she always replied. “But I will not need it today.”

Each morning, she left the gun where it lay. Mistress Yildirim was the greatest shot in the city, but she hunted Kara Ramadami with a blade. That was just one of the many rules of sahidi. (Continue Reading…)

PodCastle 516e: 10th Anniversary Special, The Best of PodCastle #1 – The Paper Menagerie

Show Notes

Rated PG.

Editors’ note: This episode originally aired as PodCastle 165. We are reissuing it to celebrate PodCastle’s 10th anniversary. This story was in first position in a listener vote that was held to determine PodCastle’s most-loved episodes over the past decade.


The Paper Menagerie

by Ken Liu

A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.

I reached out to Mom’s creation. Its tail twitched, and it pounced playfully at my finger. “Rawrr-sa,” it growled, the sound somewhere between a cat and rustling newspapers.

I laughed, startled, and stroked its back with an index finger. The paper tiger vibrated under my finger, purring.

Zhe jiao zhezhi,” Mom said. This is called origami.

I didn’t know this at the time, but Mom’s kind was special. She breathed into them so that they shared her breath, and thus moved with her life. This was her magic.