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PodCastle Miniature 102: What the Sea Reaps, We Must Provide


What the Sea Reaps, We Must Provide

by Eleanor R. Wood

The ball bounces off the tide-packed sand and Bailey leaps to catch it with lithe grace and accuracy. He returns to deposit it at my feet for another go. It’s nearly dusk; the beach is ours on this January evening. It stretches ahead, the rising tide low enough to give us ample time to reach the sea wall.

Bailey’s devotion to his ball is second only to his pack. He is never careless with it, relinquishing it only at my command or to give Bernie the occasional chase. Bernie brings up the rear, my shaggy bear, staying close but lacking Bailey’s fierce duty to his ball.

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PodCastle 681: TALES FROM THE VAULTS —Wolfy Things

Show Notes

Rated R.

This episode is a part of our Tales from the Vaults series, in which a member of PodCastle’s staff chooses a backlist episode to highlight and discuss. This week’s episode was chosen by departing co-editor, Jen R. Albert. “Wolfy Things” originally aired as PodCastle 429.


Wolfy Things

by Erin Roberts

 

Tonight, me and Lee gonna kill the wolf. Been digging a pit out in the woods all summer, filling it up with wolfsbane and sharp rocks big as our heads, covering it up with leaves so wolfy eyes can’t tell it’s there. Lee even snatched a whole chicken outta his Pa’s coop, snapped its neck and threw it on the pile like some kinda wolf Christmas come early. Wolf just has to go sniffing over by the edge and we give a good push and we’ll be Nicky and Lee, honest-to-God wolf-killers.

Lee says they still gonna be talking ‘bout us when our grandkids is old and crook-backed, just like they do Old Cooper Lyons. Coop’s mean as a snake in a wood pile, but ever since he tricked that whole pack into calling truce and then burned ‘em to the ground, cubs and all, they ‘bout throw him a parade whenever he comes through town. So by sunup, ain’t nobody gonna care why I ain’t got no Daddy or where Lee’s Ma went off to or how I got my devil eyes. And once that damn wolf’s good and dead, he won’t be coming ‘round my house no more.


First time I seen the wolf was two years past, day I turned ten. Old enough to handle a knife and stand watch like Lee done for his Pa three years already. Wasn’t really nothing to see out there but the same old trees and stars and Lee’s Pa’s cabin down the way, but better’n watching Ma sniffle and drip tears all over the floor like a leaky roof. She been like that since forever, river in her eyes and stone in her throat, always gulping out things ‘bout vows and sins and being sorry, and ain’t a man alive what wants to watch his own Ma cry.

I woke mid-watch, leaned up against the side of the cabin, knife on the ground and wolf in my face, its goldy eyes flashing like fireflies. Froze me up faster than a tongue on ice—barely got my legs squeezed together tight enough not to piss the ground. Lee always says a wolf’ll kill you right off soon as it sees you, add you to its coat of little boy skins. But this one just stood there tall on hind legs, hairy and naked as a hound-dog, smelling like new-killed hogs and dirt and bare feet after running. Then it honest-to-God started talking, real words and everything, voice deep as far-off thunder.

“Your Ma know you’re out here?”

Hearing it talk about Ma unfroze me right quick. Man can’t let no beast come for his kin. I reached for the knife, but the wolf grabbed hold of my wrist and laughed. I tried turning this way and that, but it didn’t make no difference. Its palms was spongy-soft, but they clamped down tight as a bear trap all the same.

“Let go!”  I said, voice coming out high and squeaky.

“So you can grab your knife and gut me?”

“Do what I have to,” I said, growling in my throat to get my voice deep. “Protect my kin.”

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PodCastle 680: Ashwright

Show Notes

Rated PG-13, with a content warning for rituals for the dead, including children.


Ashwright

by Robert Luke Wilkins

 

The plains town still smouldered, its once-strong gates blackened and ruined, but the bandits were long gone. The townsfolk were gathering the bodies of the dead into a great heap, and though he had caught the smell on the air hours earlier, Moran still arrived in time to see them working.

It was easier if he arrived when they were finished.

One of the men threw an infant girl’s body onto the heap, and Moran turned away as he fought down old memories—it was neither the time nor the place. Today was about their grief.

He walked up to the gates, and waited to be invited in. The townsfolk who noticed him at first threw him strange looks, which came as no surprise. He was a tall man, with a warrior’s build—if he were carrying a sword, he could easily have been mistaken for a bandit himself.

But the muscle was as much a tool of his trade as any he carried, and the robes he wore were unmistakable. Unchanged in more than a century, their gray-trimmed white contrasted with his sun-darkened skin—but the silver that had crept into his brown hair matched them well enough. And beneath it, always hidden, he wore a necklace—a single length of thick black cord that held twenty-seven forged steel pendants.

His heavy pack held all he needed to practice his art. His shovel and long-handled sledgehammer were tied together across the top beneath a rolled blanket, and the mighty bronze hammer’s head leaned the entire pack a little sideways. A broad brass pestle and two copper pots were tied beneath with rough brown cord, and they clattered as he walked.

It never took people long to realize who he was—and today was no exception. The whispers grew, crept from mouth to ear, and soon enough the Town Elder came out to meet him.

“You’re Ashwright.”

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PodCastle 679: Pull

Show Notes

Rated PG-13 with a content warning for end of life care.


Pull

by Leah Ning

 

I could already feel her mind tugging at mine from upstairs, a warm, familiar pull that threatened to separate me from my body. Are you there? the pull seemed to ask. Are you coming back?

I took her bowl of oatmeal from the microwave and tested it with a finger. It had to be a little cooler than she liked now. She couldn’t blow on it herself anymore.

That tidal pull came again, stronger this time, and I had to close my eyes for a moment to fight it. She was harder to resist now than she ever was. For one thing, she never used to pull this hard. For another, her pull had become the only way she would talk. Words escaped her more often than not now.

When the pull abated, I shuffled up the stairs, dirty white slippers whispering on linoleum that hadn’t been swept in…I couldn’t remember how long.

“I’m here, Amy, I’m coming,” I said when I felt her latch on again. She didn’t let go, but the feeling of building strength faded.

She looked at me from against her mound of pillows, her grey eyes watery. Thin lips nestled in a cacophony of wrinkles I’d watched the hand of time etch across her face.

I sat on the edge of the bed. “Oatmeal.”

She made a face.

“Well, I snuck some maple syrup in there this time. How’s that?”

This delighted her as it did every morning. She let me spoon the oatmeal into her mouth and I chatted idly while she worked it across her tongue and swallowed it. My mouth poured sweetness into her ears while my spoon poured sweetness into her mouth.

When the food was gone, she closed her eyes, smiling.

I didn’t notice her strength gathering again until it was too late. I scrambled for a handhold in my mind. The warmth of her pull cradled me, loosening my hold on myself with gentle mental fingers until I gave in and let go.

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