PodCastle logo

PC022: Dead Girl’s Wedding March

Show Notes

Rated G. Contains love between a rat and a girl five thousand years dead.


Dead Girl’s Wedding March

by Cat Rambo

“The Physician came with eager steps, for new cases were few and far between. He insisted on examining Zuleika from head to toe, and would have had her disrobe, save for her father’s protest.

“She seems well enough to me,” the Physician said in a disappointed tone.

“She believes she wishes to marry.”

“Tut, tut,” the Physician said in astonishment. “Well now. Love. And you wish this cured?”

“Before the contagion spreads any further or drives her to actions imperiling us all.”

 

PodCastle logo

PodCastle Miniature 009: What Dragons Prefer

Show Notes

Rated PG. Contains draconic lechery.

Read by Loupe Savich


What Dragons Prefer

by Dayle A. Dermatis

“Dragonslayer,” he greeted, his smile slick beneath his well-oiled mustache. “Thank you for coming to aid us in our time of terror.”

“I prefer ‘Dragonseeker,'” I said politely. “It is not enough to have the skills to slay a dragon–one must learn about him as well. To know one’s enemy is to destroy him.”

And most people knew so little about dragons. I knew, for example, that dragons only fed once every twenty years, and then usually only one human. Is that such a bad thing, really, when wolves kill so many deer in the forest to survive, or humans kill sheep because roast mutton is so tasty? But people panicked if they saw a dragon glide far overhead on the highest currents, or if they caught a faint whiff of its acrid scent when the wind turned just right.

PodCastle logo

PC021: Hallah Iron-Thighs and the Change of Life

Show Notes

Rated PG. Contains scantily clad barbarians of the female persuasion.


Hallah Iron-Thighs and the Change of Life

by K.D. Wentworth

“I wouldn’t do that, if I were you,” I called after him. “This pass is dangerous. You never know when you’re going to run into a bunch of low-down, dirty, skulking ban–”

“And just who are you calling `dirty’ there, ducks?” a familiar male voice called down from the rocks above. “Actually, I’m thinking the two of you could do with a bit of spit and polish your own selves.”

“Lomo, you skunk!” Corpsemaker’s hooves clattered as I pulled her up.

“That’s Lomo, King of the Bandits, to you,” he said haughtily.

I leaped out of the saddle, my sword Esmeralda in hand. “I thought I split your thieving head open the last time you waylaid us!”

“That,” he said loftily from his unseen perch, “was merely a clever ruse on my part.”

“Rats and eels, I hate it when they won’t stay dead!”

PodCastle logo

PC020: Cup and Table

Show Notes

Rated PG. Contains mysteries, religious and philosophical.


Cup and Table

by Tim Pratt

The Old Doctor welcomed Sigmund, twenty years old and tormented by visions, into the library at the Table’s headquarters. Shelves rose everywhere like battlements, the floors were old slate, and the lights were ancient crystal-dripping chandeliers, but the Old Doctor sat in a folding chair at a card table heaped with books.

“I expected, well, something more,” Sigmund said, thumping the rickety table with his hairy knuckles. “A big slab of mahogany or something, a table with authority.”

“We had a fine table once,” the Old Doctor said, eternally middle-aged and absently professorial. “But it was chopped up for firewood during a siege in the 1600s.” He tapped the side of his nose. “There’s a lesson in that. No asset, human or material, is important compared to the continued existence of the organization itself.”

“But surely you’re irreplaceable,” Sigmund said, awkward attempt at job security through flattery. The room shivered and blurred at the edges of his vision, but it had not changed much in recent decades, a few books moving here and there, piles of dust shifting across the floor.

The Old Doctor shook his head. “I am the living history of the Table, but if I died, a new doctor would be sent from the archives to take over operations, and though his approach might differ from mine, his role would be the same — to protect the cup.”

“The cup,” Sigmund said, sensing the cusp of mysteries. “You mean the Holy Grail.”

PodCastle logo

PodCastle Miniature 008: Believe

Show Notes

Rated G. Contains quarters in unexpected places.


Believe

by Katherine Sparrow

“I’ve been practicing.”

Kenya nods her head. “It takes a lot of practice.”

“How long did it take you?”

“Forever!” Kenya claps her hands and makes two more quarters appear. At lunch she buys two chocolate milks with her quarters and gives one to Maria. It is sweet and thick and better than the wheat bread and yellow rubber-cheese sandwich her Mom packed for her.

They have a test in long division after lunch and Maria feels mad that Kenya can just get an ‘A’ with magic but she has to work hard. She knows how to do it but keeps forgetting to carry the ones and the twos and the only thing that matters to the teacher is getting the answer right. I believe I’ll get an A, Maria thinks as hard as she can. D into A, D into A!

“Can you do more magic?” Maria asks Kenya at recess.

“Yes.”

“Will you show me?”

“Maybe tomorrow. I have to believe more first.”

PodCastle logo

PC019: Galatea

Show Notes

Rated PG. Contains alienation from community and spirit


Galatea

by Vylar Kaftan

Since I moved to the city, I’ve been dying piece by piece. It’s not really the smog, or the crowds, or my tiny apartment above the Arabic bookstore, or any of the things that bother most people. It’s the way people hurry around, their faces to the sidewalk, darting through the streets like ants swarming over a dead lizard. City life is fractured into thousands of pieces–faceted like the view from insect eyes. Maybe it makes sense to ants. To a small-town girl like me, it’s overwhelming.

The problem is that I’ve been here long enough to start dying. I lost two fingers last week. They fell off while I was sleeping. I found them next to my pillow in the morning, and put them in a shoebox with my big toe.

PodCastle logo

PC018: Illuminated Dragon

Show Notes

Rated G. Warning: contains mythical creatures such as dragons and mermaids. May be illegal in some jurisdictions.


Illuminated Dragon

by Sarah Prineas

The neatly lettered sign hung askew. Shards of glass spilled out from the front window, and scraps of charred paper blew around the front door, which hung crookedly from one hinge. Rafe came closer and, shaking, peered into his shop.

Shredded papers lay everywhere, in drifts on the floor and the worktable. Any representation of human or animal, Rafe knew, had been hacked out and burnt; the hearth was choked with ash and half-charred pages. Across one wall was a splash of vivid vermilion. The other colors had been tipped onto the floor and ground underfoot. Rafe crept further in, shards of the broken window crunching underfoot. With trembling hands, Rafe opened the book.

The bestiary was missing from its wooden stand in the corner. Rafe fell to his knees, pushing tattered papers aside, searching for it. A shard of glass cut his hand, and he left bloody fingerprints on every page that he touched. At last he found the book underneath his worktable, and for a moment his heart leapt; it seemed to be unharmed. With trembling hands, Rafe opened the book. He looked at it for a long moment, then closed it and laid it gently on the floor.

Most of the destruction in the shop had been done by unsubtle thinkers, typical Men of Truth, all brutality and swagger and the knowledge that they were, absolutely and rationally, Right.

But someone else had done the book. Someone subtle, surgical. The pages were nearly untouched. Except that every illuminated picture, every dragon, pard, gryphon, or mermaid, had been carefully and neatly excised.

PodCastle logo

PodCastle Miniature 007: Tooth Fairy

Show Notes

Rated PG. Contains adorable postmodernism.

“Tooth Fairy” makes its debut in PodCastle. It was submitted as an entry in Escape Pod’s Flash Fiction Contest, February 2007.


Tooth Fairy

by Jeffrey Valka

“The first thing you need to understand is that there isn’t just one tooth fairy…there are hundreds of them. Thousands. To them, your baby tooth is precious as a diamond. They make tremendous piles and sit on them just like dragons sit on treasure. They can never get enough.” I pause for a moment to allow this information to sink in for her. “The next question you should ask me is this: where do the tooth fairies get the money that they leave under your pillow?”

“Where do they get the money?” she asks.

PodCastle logo

PC017: Goblin Lullaby

Show Notes

Rated G. Contains not necessarily overlapping groups of heroes and good guys.


Goblin Lullaby

by Jim C. Hines

“I’ve never seen a goblin infant,” said the elf, stepping closer.

“You thought goblins sprang fully formed from the rocks for you to slaughter?”  She jammed a knuckle into Jig’s mouth for him to suck.  His baby fangs were just beginning to pierce the gums, but the pain in her finger was better than listening to him cry.

“We slaughtered nobody.”  The voice came from below the outcropping.  The elf relaxed his bow and knelt, hauling his companion up onto the ledge. “You goblins attacked us.  We defended ourselves.”

Grell stepped to the edge and studied the woods below.  Goblin blood turned the earth a gruesome shade of blue.  Elves wove through the trees, making no noise save the twang of bowstrings and the ripping sound of blades tearing through goblin armor and flesh.  “Defended yourselves?  Next time, why don’t you defend yourselves over in the hobgoblin tunnels rather than sneaking onto our land to do it?”

The archer caught his companion by the arm.  “She’s an old woman, Jonathan. With a child.”

“She’s a goblin, Rindar.”  But he relaxed slightly.  He was bulkier than his companion, and the mane of red hair meant he was no elf.  Red stubble dotted his chin, though he was too young to grow a proper beard.  He wore a heavy mail shirt, with a green tabard depicting a white dragon coiled around a tree.  “If we let her live, she’ll lead another attack against us.”

Grell kicked the corpse of the goblin drummer.  “If you let me live, I’ll go back to the nursery and get some sleep.”

“I won’t risk letting you go free,” said Jonathan.  “Not until my quest is complete.”

PodCastle logo

PC016: Magnificent Pigs

Show Notes

Rated PG. Contains child mortality. Those sensitive to these themes are advised to take caution.


Magnificent Pigs

by Cat Rambo

The spring before it happened, I went upstairs and found my ten-year-old sister Jilly crying. Charlotte’s Web, which we’d been reading together at bedtime all that week, lay splayed broken-backed on the floor where she’d thrown it.

“What’s wrong?” I said, hovering in the doorway. As Jilly kept getting sicker, I tried to offer her the illusion of her own space, but remained ready.

“I was reading ahead because I liked it so much—and Charlotte dies!” she managed to gasp between sobs.

The big brass bed creaked in protest as I sat down beside her. Gathering her into my arms, I rocked her back and forth. It was well past sunset and the full-faced moon washed into the room, spilling across the blue rag rug like milk, and gleaming on the bed knobs so that they looked like balls of icy light, brighter than the dim glow of Jilly’s bedside lamp.

“It’s a book, Jilly, just a book,” I said.

She shook her head, cheeks blotched red and wet with tears. “But, Aaron, Charlotte’s dead!” she choked out again.

I retrieved the book from the middle of the room and set it in front of her. “Look,” I said. “If we open the book up again at the beginning, Charlotte’s alive. She’ll always be alive in the book.”

The sobs quieted to hiccups and she reached for the book, looking dubious. When she opened it to the first chapter, I began to read. “‘Where’s Papa going with that ax?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. ‘Out to the hoghouse,’ replied Mrs. Arable. ‘Some pigs were born last night.'”

Curling against me, she let me read the first two chapters. After she slipped away to sleep, I tucked the blanket around her then went downstairs to cry my own tears.