PodCastle 761: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – The Bone Pickers

Show Notes

Rated PG

The Bone Pickers

by Kelsey Hutton


My last day picking buffalo bones, stooping and flinging and splintering tibia among the tall grass, was the day I lost the smell of freshly tanned leather.

The buffalo gave us so many gifts, but the finished hides were my favourite. Rich and musky-smelling, hair scraped off, with only the hide left — I remember one side was always slightly glossier than the other. Soft, supple, broken in. Ready for a skilled seamstress to transform into intricately embroidered moccasins, leggings, vests, a thousand beautiful things.

Or, there were the great shaggy buffalo robes my parents used to roll us children up in at night, tucked safely into our corner of the cabin to sleep. Those were large enough I could lie down in the middle, fan my arms and legs out like a great grey owl descending on its prey, and still not touch the edges. First thing in the morning, or last thing at night, I remember closing my eyes and inhaling huge swelling lungfuls of the scent left behind by the great animals, lii bufloo, who lived alongside us. Whose lives were twined so intimately with ours.

And of course, there were the herds themselves. As many as there were seeds in the spring, as there were stones in the riverbed. On the first day of the fall hunt, we could follow their smell more surely even than their hoofbeats. Kneeling beside a freshly killed cow, grown fat on sweet summer clover, I would bury my fingers deep in her shaggy ruff. Curled up in the warmth still emanating from her massive form, I breathed in my thanks.

These were the things I still let myself remember, around and in between the spitting-grease-hot memories of my parents, my brothers, my sisters. Those ones I never touched.

(Continue Reading…)

PodCastle 760: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – The Tree Whisperer

Show Notes

Rated PG-13

The Tree Whisperer

by Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe


The trees are getting restless. I walk down the beaten forest path, trying my best to ignore their murmurs, but they are too many and their words crowd my mind.

The green will perish . . .

You must warn the people . . .

Call down the wrath of Ileh . . .

I do not reply to any of them. They will only slow me down if I do, and I must be back in the village before nightfall. I duck under a low-hanging branch and crawl till I emerge in a clearing. At the far end stands a tall iroko tree, the oldest in the forest and the leader of the trees: Auzyvre, the tree that was planted by Ileh herself.


Auzyvre’s voice is deeper than the voices of the other trees, and immediately as they speak, the entire forest falls quiet. They wave their leaves gently, even though there is no wind. Somewhere in their tall branches, a bird sings an ode to the ending day. I incline my head respectfully when I reach their base and a fresh green leaf falls to my feet, a sign of approval and acceptance.

“Auzyvre. I come with news,” I say.

I can feel the other trees tensing, their branches quivering with anticipation. Auzyvre betrays no emotion like the others, but I can tell that they’re expectant as well.

What news do you bring from the world of men?

“Tarim won’t send the foreigners away,” I say.

The trees howl in disappointment. Yellowed leaves fall to the ground all around me. Their branches shake aggressively and I can feel the ground rumbling a little as some of them move their roots, threatening to rip them out of the earth in their anger.

Enough! Enough!

Auzyvre’s voice cuts through the din, and gradually the trees quiet down. When the last yellow leaf has fallen and the earth has stopped trembling, Auzyvre speaks again.

Kola, you know what will happen if the foreigners do not leave. You know what we must do.

I know. I know what they must do. People will be hurt, or worse. They have done it before, but I cannot let them do it again. The last time the trees acted, innocent people died. This time, if anyone should suffer at all, it should be the ones who have betrayed the earth only. (Continue Reading…)

PodCastle 759: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – Anu and the Vetala

Show Notes


Anu and the Vetala

by Srikripa Krishna Prasad


The marble-tile floor of King Vikramaditya’s throne room is cold against Anu’s forehead. As she prostrates herself before him, body curled into a ball as her forehead meets the point of her hands, she can’t help the contempt that rises in her throat like vomit. Such riches, while she has to beg in front of the court for a chance at life.
“Rise,” intones the king.
Teeth clacking as she fights back shivers, Anu painstakingly lifts herself to her feet and meets his eyes.
“What brings you here?” he asks, courteous.
Anu breathes in deeply, taking the opportunity to look around the throne room. The marble walls are gilded with gold and tall, carved pillars support the ceiling, which is painted with figures of the king in various battles. Cushions and mats surround the throne where the ministers and court musicians would usually sit — once a week, the king banishes them from court in case they are the subjects of a civilian’s complaint. The throne itself is just how the stories describe it — carved into it are the figures of the thirty-two apsaras, the virtuous spirits who recognized King Vikramaditya as the most noble of kings. The king’s wives are absent; Anu wonders if they are even allowed to be present when the king holds court.
Allowed to. Anu’s mouth curls, and she quickly controls herself. You need him, she reminds herself. He is the most generous of all kings.
“Your Majesty,” she begins at last. “I come at the behest of the many stories told all around the nation of your grace and benevolence. Tales of your generosity and courage have been recited loudly enough to reach even my small village, far in the south.”
The king smiles, pleased. Anu swallows, then continues. “Your Majesty, I have journeyed for one month to bow before you and make a request. You see, I am very ill.” Anu curbs the roll of her eyes as the guards conspicuously move away from her. “The physicians in my village could not find a cure, nor could the ones in the cities around me, until one finally revealed my condition is one that can only be cured by great magic.”
“This is truly unfortunate,” the king says. “What ails you?”
“Intermittent fevers,” Anu replies. “They used to come on every few months, but now they have been occurring weekly. I fear for my life, Your Grace.”
“I see,” the king says, thoughtful. “What is it that you seek from me?”
“I have heard that you employ a sorcerer.”
The king’s eyebrow arches. “Indeed, I do.” He gestures towards a man standing in the far corner of the throne room, who comes forward. He carries a wooden staff and is dressed in a plain, white dhoti. Something about him reminds Anu of a coiled snake about to pounce.
“Speak, sorcerer,” says the king, “and tell this woman if you may assist her.” (Continue Reading…)

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Indigenous Magic Month


PodCastle is very proud to present Indigenous Magic, our special month of stories featuring Indigenous themes by Indigenous authors. Every week during November 2022, we will be bringing you a new Indigenous Magic story, and we can’t wait to share them all!

We have five fabulous stories coming up:

“Anu and the Vetala” by Srikripa Krishna Prasad, narrated by S. B. Divya

“The Tree Whisperer” by Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe, narrated by Somto Ihezue

“The Bone Pickers” by Kelsey Hutton, narrated by Laurie McDougall

“The Witching Hour” by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, narrated by Shingai Njeri Kagunda

“Dying Rivers and Broken Hearts” by Gabriella Buba, narrated by Vida Cruz

We’re also delighted to be featuring this beautiful artwork by Cindy Fan, an illustrator and night owl who specializes in bringing stories to life in a dreamy and thoughtful manner for print and digital media. When she’s not drawing she loves walking slowly and aimlessly admiring the textures around her. Her work can be found at www.cind.ca

Our cover art design is by Matt Dovey.

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PodCastle 758: TALES FROM THE VAULTS – The Half Dark Promise

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 associate editor Sara S. Messenger.

“The Half Dark Promise” originally aired as PodCastle 387

The Half Dark Promise

by Malon Edwards

The first thing Bobby Brightsmith told me when I moved to the South Side of Chicago from La Petite Haïti with Manmi was to run like a scalded dog if I ever saw zonbi la in the half dark on the way home from school.

See, when Bobby was eight years old, a little girl and a little boy were snatched from the half dark not far from home. They were never seen again. Bobby said because of that little girl and that little boy, timoun yo in Chicago now walk home from school in groups, in the half dark just before nightfall. The half dark comes fast this time of year.

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PodCastle 757: TALES FROM THE VAULTS – Harlequin Moon

Show Notes

Rated PG


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 associate editor Hamilton Perez.

“Harlequin Moon” originally aired as PodCastle 393.

Harlequin Moon

by Jennifer Hykes

The man called Dirt was a master of riddles. It was his only gift.

He was not a riddler himself. From the time he could speak, he always called things exactly what they were and nothing else. He had tried, once or twice in his childhood, to craft a joke or to weave a pair of clever words together. But every time he tried to twist something sideways, he found that his tongue would not cooperate. So he stopped trying to be clever and went on his way, moving through his life in a straight line from day before to day after. He worked the fields on his family’s farm, he carted vegetables to market, he paid his respects to the temple gods at all the appropriate times. He grew tall and broad of shoulder, but even in the prime of his youth he moved with the deliberate calm of old age. He was not a riddler.

But he was a master at solving riddles.

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PodCastle 756: O Cul-de-Sac!

Show Notes

Rated PG-13

O Cul-de-Sac!

by Tim Major


O neighbours! If only we might speak!

Do you feel as I feel? Do you think as I think? Here we are, all crouching in our circle, so close to one another. It is maddening.

I see your people come and go. I hear snippets of their conversations. They are happy, your people, are they not? It is healthy, all this coming and going. But we remain rooted, facing one another implacably.

We are so young: sixteen this coming year. How many people have we had between us?

Recently I have paid less attention to your people than to mine, I confess. But in those early days, in those first glimmerings of consciousness, I was empty and I watched you all with intense fascination. There seemed so much to learn, and the opportunities for my education so few. Your people hurried to and fro — on what errands I had no way of imagining — and when they returned they appeared so grateful to see you. I came to distinguish between adults — more direct in their routes across our cul-de-sac, bustling into the cars on your driveways — and children, who dallied and bickered, whose movements were a joy to me. The children belonged to the adults and the adults belonged to you. When your people were nestled within you I gazed at the sky and the fields. I tested the radius of my attention, peering as far beyond my walls as possible. I perceived the disturbances of animals in the long grasses and swooping above me, I saw trees bending with the force of an unseen hand, I saw the rust-coloured roofs of the village that is tied to our cul-de-sac by an umbilical lane. I called out to you. I beckoned to your people. I was alone.

I was unoccupied. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 755: Aurum & Indigo

Show Notes

Rated R

Aurum & Indigo

By LP Kindred


Aurum sits on a wooden stool, hunched over the oakwood bar, stained darker by shellac and low lights. In spite of them, he stares into his book while a second lies closed atop the bar. His feet dangle, kicking softly. Eyes rake over words but their meaning never reaches his mind. The barman doesn’t offer a mug of ale as often as the skulking leches whose eyes scrub his body in hopes of finding interest in his eyes.

Aurum manages to avert his eyes — the book — when they come calling, but his heart triple beats each time the door opens and Shikaakwa cold invades the warm dark. After scouring the door, he draws his book closer.

There is a gentleman caller for whom Aurum journeyed from the Deep South to City Center. The nightmare of crosstown travel hastened Aurum to leave with abundant time to arrive punctually. Consequently, Aurum arrived one hour and one quarter before their arranged time to meet. Should anyone be this nervous about a man he’s already inundated?

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 754: TALES FROM THE VAULTS – The One They Took Before

Show Notes

Rated PG

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 associate editor Tarver Nova. “The One They Took Before” originally aired as PodCastle 388.

The One They Took Before

by Kelly Sandoval


Rift opened in my backyard. About six feet tall and one foot wide. Appears to open onto a world of endless twilight and impossible beauty. Makes a ringing noise like a thousand tiny bells. Call (206) 555-9780 to identify.

Kayla reads the listing twice, knowing the eager beating of her heart is ridiculous. One page back, someone claims they found a time machine. Someone else has apparently lost their kidneys.

The Internet isn’t real. That’s what she likes about it. And if the post is real, the best thing she can do is pretend she never saw it.

After all, she’s doing better. She sees a therapist, now. She’s had a couple of job interviews.

She calls the number.

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PodCastle 753: TALES FROM THE VAULTS – Piety, Prayer, Peacekeeper, Apocalypse

Show Notes

Rated PG-13

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 associate editor Andrew K. Hoe. “Piety, Prayer, Peacekeeper, Apocalypse” originally aired as PodCastle 449.

Piety, Prayer, Peacekeeper, Apocalypse

by Rati Mehrotra

Soru Khara had been hunting her death for many years before she arrived at the crumbling old port of Tyron. She camouflaged her skimmer and stalked up to the rusty gates as the sun set over the citadel, the fishy tang of the sea sharp in her nostrils. The smell of childhood—the smell of things best left buried. It was why she usually avoided ports. This time, though, she had no choice. She was to deliver a letter, like a common messenger. She had not questioned the inanity of her assignment. One did not question the Voice of the Star Emperor; one merely obeyed it.

“Halt!” Crossed spears barred her way into the passage under the city walls. A man with the insignia of the Umnia falcon stepped up to her. “No one enters the city between sunset and sunrise.”

Soru Khara swept her gaze over the company. A captain and ten guards, and they expected to take on a death-hunter. Possibly they did not know who she was. She withdrew the letter with the seal of Yimri and waved it front of the captain’s stony face. “A message for Queen Lariel from her master. It cannot wait till morning.”

The captain held out a gloved hand. “Give it to me and I will deliver it.”

“No,” said Soru Khara, feeling her patience crumble. “I must deliver it myself. Do not delay me, Captain. I have skimmed six days across the continent to reach your little village. Is this how you treat messengers from the Star Emperor?”

“Village?” said the captain, affronted. “Tyron is the capital of Umnia. Watch your tongue, messenger.”

“Umnia is but one of the eight realms on Earth, and Earth is but one planet under the Star Emperor’s authority,” said Soru Khara. She slipped the letter back into her pocket and allowed her voice to gain an edge. “Get out of my way. I have no wish to shed blood tonight.”

“You threaten the Umnian Guard?” The man whipped out a scimitar from the scabbard at his waist. The curved blade glinted in the flickering light of the oil lamps that hung on both sides of the gate. “Leave, before I separate your swollen head from its pitiful body.”

He meant to frighten her, not to kill her. Also, she was a guest in Tyron, however unwelcome. Soru Khara took these things into consideration and summoned Piety, her least lethal weapon. A sudden drain of energy, heat above her palm, and Piety appeared: a blue ball crackling with electricity.