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PodCastle 632: Our Chymical Séance

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.

Our Chymical Séance

By Tony Pi

To thoroughly inspect the spacious Silverbirch Room before the séance would take more time than we had, but I did what I could. No clockwork cheats lay hidden between the wall of books and the arched windows, and no mystical runes had been etched onto the crystals of the chandelier or cut into the fossil calygreyhound skeleton on display on the mantelpiece. All that remained was the grand salon harmonium, also the most troublesome. Madame Skilling could have hidden a charlatan’s trick anywhere among the instrument’s countless parts, from its mahogany upper casework to the hundreds of pipes at its heart.

Cesar De Bruin rolled the key to the room between his palms as he stood watch, peering through the slightly ajar door. “Anything yet, Tremaine?” he asked. “Too many so-called spirit mediums have preyed upon my family’s grief, but they were charlatans with parlour tricks, all. I would rid myself of this one quickly as well. We haven’t got much time.”

I couldn’t fault my friend’s dander. His only son Poul had shot himself with a palmcannon last summer, a year to the day. Cesar had this lounge closed to the guests at Château Banffshyre ever since. Had his wife not insisted on the séance, he would have been content to leave the Silverbirch Room sealed. “Laroux said he’d stall her, and he will. He’s nothing if not resourceful.”

“Let’s hope. This Skilling woman’s convinced my wife that her ‘chymical’ method will not fail to contact the other side. I know too little of alchemy to prove her and her Ektoptikon device false, and Fay will not see sense. Have you nothing?”

“In all likelihood Madame Skilling hasn’t breached this room, Cesar, judging by the dust.” I gave the lion’s-head handle on my new walking stick a quarter-turn clockwise, revealing a clever compartment in the shaft beneath the collar. Freed from its cherrywood cocoon, the foxfire-in-amber within shone brightly from its silver setting. I ran the illumination along the pedal keys, but they showed no signs of tampering. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 631: TALES FROM THE VAULTS — Another End of the Empire

Show Notes

Rated PG for superseded oracles, despots past their expiration dates and probability witches.

Another End of the Empire

By Tim Pratt

“I am here,” Mogrash said. “Give me the bad news.”

“A child dwells in the village of Misery Chin, in the mountain
provinces to the east. If allowed to grow to manhood, he will take
over your empire, overthrow your ways and means, and send you from the halls of your palace forever.”

Mogrash relaxed. This was, at least, not an immediate threat‚ not like the pronouncement of metastasized bone cancer she’d given his grandfather. He sighed. “So I’m expected to send my Fell Rangers to the mountains, raze the village, leave no stone upon a stone, enslave the women, and kill all the younglings to stop this dire prophecy from coming to pass.”

“It’s what your father would have done.”

“Yes, but I’m more modern than he was. Besides, we’ve seen this happen a thousand times‚ the attempt to stop the prophecy will make it come to pass, won’t it?”

To read the rest of this story, visit Strange Horizons

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PodCastle 630: A Cruelty That Cut Both Ways

Show Notes

Rated R.

A Cruelty That Cut Both Ways

By Aimee Ogden

The thunderbird had left two carcasses by the barn overnight.

Ezra refused to call in the hands to help. It was Sunday, after all, and their God-given day off, whatever the devil’s own bird might have done. It was only divine providence that the rest of the cattle hadn’t escaped when the bird ransacked the Greens’ barn — the blank-eyed creatures stood and stared from where they’d crowded at the back when Ezra cleared the wreckage of the door and let in the morning’s light. He and Sarah cleaned the two dead cattle while Liza read the Bible to herself in the kitchen and prepared the Sunday meal. Sarah had assigned her daughter the story of Ruth and Boaz for today, and she could hear her daughter’s voice drifting out through the open windows in between the rap of the knife on the wooden counter. She struggled over certain words — Moabite and guardian and foreigner — but her voice was clear and true as she sounded out the story of faith and patience rewarded. Sarah hoped she took the tale to heart. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 629: Though She Be But Little

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.

A statement from PodCastle on the ongoing protests against police brutality and anti-Black racism (included in audio at the start of the episode): As you know, protests are happening all over the U.S. to draw attention to police brutality and the ongoing injustice Black Americans are forced to endure. Make no mistake, PodCastle supports Black Lives Matter and we demand justice George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery & all victims of police violence. If you want to help and don’t know where to start, please donate to your local bail fund and the National Bail Fund Network. When everything looks bleak, and you don’t know what to do, look outward to your community. We help ourselves by helping others. Solidarity.

Though She Be But Little

By C.S.E. Cooney

Emma Anne had a tin can attached by a string to her belt. Lots of things on strings bounced and banged from it: some useful (like the pocket knife), some decorative (a length of red ribbon longer than herself, looped up), some that simply seemed interesting enough to warrant a permanent yo-yoing to her person (a silver hand bell, a long blue plume, the cameo of an elephant head wearing a Victorian bonnet).

“Emma Anne’s Heavy Weight Stacked Plate Championship Wrestling Belt,” Captain Howard called it. Captain Howard often capitalized the first letters of words she spoke out loud.

The belt was leather and embossed bronze, like a python wrapped twice about Emma Anne’s torso. It had appeared along with Captious and Bumptious the night the sky turned silver. So had the tin can. They were all part of Emma Anne’s endowments. (“Endowments” was the pirate word for objects or traits materializing Post-Argentum. “Post-Argentum,” another phrase of their design. Pirates had words for everything. But pirates were liars.)

Emma Anne hadn’t known how to use any of her endowments at first. Nothing was obvious until it was.

She brought the tin can up to her mouth and spoke into its cavity as clearly as she could. Endowments obeyed intent.

“Emma Anne to Margaret Howard. Come in please, Captain Howard.”

Captain Margaret Howard, Way Pirate of Route 1, did not deal in tin cans. What she had was her parrot, George Sand. George Sand got reception.

“Rrrawk,” Emma Anne’s tin can blatted back at her. “Whaddya want?”

“What do you want, over,” Emma Anne corrected.

She wouldn’t have corrected Captain Howard to her face, but George Sand never failed to get on Emma’s nerves.

“Rrrawk! Take it and rrawk yourself,” said George Sand. “Over.”

There was a pause while Emma Anne’s chest tightened.

The tin can blatted: “Cap’n Howard makes her apologies for her rude bird, over. Please continue, kid, over.”

She took a deep breath and decided not, after all, to cry.

“Captain, I’ve had a second visitation. It’s the Loping Man for sure. I think he’s coming for me tonight. Can you please meet me at Potter Hill preserve? He’s been showing up around eight o’ clock, so if you could come before that, I’d be really . . . But I understand if you’ll be out, out . . .”

Emma Anne knew the word she wanted to say, or knew that she had known it not too long ago. It dissolved at the back of her throat like a Vitamin C tablet. Left a tang.

George Sand provided.

“Carousing!” it squawked. “Roistering. Wassailing. Possibly pillaging. Pirate Banquet tonight up at The Grill. Starts at seven. Mandatory.” Another pause, wherein (Emma Anne surmised) Captain Howard related something to her parrot even it would not repeat. “Er . . . over.”

“Bye,” said Emma Anne in a much smaller voice. She let the tin can fall. It bonged hollowly against her knee.

Captious sighed. “Well. That went about the way we thought.” (Continue Reading…)