Archive for Rated R

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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 625: Salt and Iron

Show Notes

Rated R.


Salt and Iron

By Gem Isherwood

There’s a gash across her cheekbone, glass in her arm and her lower lip is twice the size it should be, but Dagna Müller is hardly a stranger to pain.

She slumps on the steps outside the tavern, feeling her nose to check if it’s broken again. Without sensation in her fingertips it’s hard to tell. She can’t bring herself to care much either way.

Her muscles ache from the weight as well as the fight: a dull hurt that courses along her shoulders and down her arms, turning to a chafing burn where the skin of her wrists meets the solid metal of her hands.

That pain never fades. At least the injuries provide some variety.

The tavern stands on the seafront, where barques and schooners are berthed like horses stabled for the night. The tide is low and the air reeks worse than an undine’s armpit; between that and the cheap gin in her belly it takes all of Dagna’s willpower not to retch.

Six months ago, she wouldn’t have lost a fight. If she hadn’t drunk herself halfway into oblivion she could have knocked all three of them out inside of a minute. Or at least noticed the bastards were cheating before they’d taken every last coin in her purse.

“Here,” a voice says from above her. “You’re a damn poor advertisement for my business.”

She looks up to see the landlord – an old mariner, face wrinkled from the sun and sea air – offering her an almost-clean rag. She takes it and dabs at her bloody face.

“I’ll pay for the damage,” she says, busted lip muffling the words.

“Oh yeah? With what?” He leans against the doorframe and folds his arms. “Them’s good hands for throwing a punch. Strong arms for throwing weight behind it too.”

“Four years on the merchant ships’ll do that.”

The glass splinters in her left bicep are leaking spots of blood like freckles. She’ll have to dig them out with a penknife later. It’s times like these she misses fingernails. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 621: A Salt and Sterling Tongue

Show Notes

Rated R.


A Salt and Sterling Tongue

By Emma Osborne

I found my dying boy curled up in a pile of straw wet with his blood. Seamus rolled over as I entered the barn, and I saw then that he’d chewed his fingers down to the first knuckle.

I gasped.

“I can taste my King in my wet,” he said, rocking forward, naming his lost Merling lord. Seamus could barely keep himself up on what was left of his hands and his knees. I crouched and moved closer and he fell forward onto forearms thin as sticks.

Seamus’ teeth shone through the gore that coated him from nose to navel, and he’d bitten off a few of the scales that dotted the skin of his upper arms. One was stuck to his chin with blood.

“He’s stopped singing, but I can hear him in the waves and in my blood, my lord, my king.”

My youngest boy was the one of the unlucky few who’d heard the music of the Merling King while out collecting cockles, who came home the next morning shivering and soaked and vomiting up seawater, the salt crystalising in his scant beard, newborn silver scales peeping out of his skin. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 620: When Hope Is Lost, Touch Remains

Show Notes

Rated R for steamy friction, physical and ethical.


When Hope Is Lost, Touch Remains

By Nin Harris

Chowrasta Market was where Maria had learned to love books — upstairs in the claustrophobic crush of second-hand book stalls, where the musty smell of old paperbacks was drowned in a panoply of aromas from the market downstairs: fish, the blood of poultry, and the musk-laden spore of murdered mammals. Her bookishness was all she was able to offer the men who occasionally fell in love with her. They drowned in her literary wit and her fragile insecurities until the time when, as with all relationships, one must drift away and make an end.

Sometimes the endings were congenial.

More often than not the congeniality masked a secret pain, a gnawing loss at the realisation that another hope had been proven false. Because what are endings but a betrayal of some hope? But then again, what are endings if they are not a culmination of choices made? (Continue Reading…)