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Cast of Wonders 260: Contractual Obligations

Show Notes

Theme music is “Appeal to Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available from Promo DJ or his Facebook page.


Contractual Obligations

by Jaime O. Mayer

Jiasi gripped the heavy skate, her eyes flicking first to the rust-spotted blade attached to the sole, then back to Emmaline, who watched her with a mischievous smile. “Maybe this is a bad idea.”

Emmaline rolled her eyes, a chuckle escaping her lips.

They sat on a lakeside bench while dozens of Valorie City’s citizens enjoyed the wintry morning. Children raced each other across the frozen surface, giving a wide berth to a pair of young men working on a broken down steamhorse midway through a sleigh ride. Jiasi recognized the Drayden coach by sound rather than sight; there was no mistaking the shrill, nasal whine of Lady Drayden as she barked orders at the men and criticized her daughter in the same breath. “Work faster! Allianne, stop waving your arms like a drunkard.”

Allianne’s response, voice light as her straw-colored hair, was inaudible as she wobbled around in a circle, arms held out for balance.

Emmaline’s lips quirked up in a smile. “A dance routine on ice? It’s an excellent idea.” She plucked the skate from Jiasi’s hands. “We just shouldn’t have said it where the Drayden Dragon could hear.”

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Cast of Wonders 256: Phalium Arium Ssp, Amans

Show Notes

Theme music is “Appeal to Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available from Promo DJ or his Facebook page.


Phalium arium ssp. anams

By Victoria Sandbrook

Nora tugged her gloves down further over her freckled wrists. Every other couple in line had linked arms, but John Reidy had not so much as inched his elbow towards her. She wasn’t sure what pained her more: the ache in her hands screaming that this parish carnival sideshow hid more magic than most or her inept suitor. The line could not move fast enough.

But nothing about this show was fast. Patrons shuffled between intricate, though fraudulent, displays: palm-sized peacocks with visible clockwork, chicken-sized dragon eggs wiggling as a hidden steam boiler hissed, monkeys that might as well have still had their old organ-grinder parts attached. Nora struggled not to roll her eyes. Dull, boring, badly engineered. And not a true cryptid to be seen. Everyone else had sighed, pointed, marveled. Only John Reidy seemed as disappointed as Nora. He’d polished his glasses, refolded his handkerchief in his pale fingers, and said “hmm,” three times.

Nora wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or insulted.

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Cast of Wonders 188: Above Decks (Staff Pick 2015)

Show Notes

Every year in January, Cast of Wonders takes the month off to recharge our batteries, plan the year ahead, and highlight some of our favourite episodes. As part of joining the Escape Artists family, this year we’re pulling out all the stops. We’re running 10 staff pick episodes over the month, each one hosted by a different member of the Cast of Wonders crew.

We hope you enjoy slush reader and community manager Dani Daly’s favorite story from 2015, Above Decks by Terry Ibele and narrated by Phil Lunt. The story originally aired August 23, 2015 as Cast of Wonders 175.


Above Decks

by Tery Ibele

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

It felt like I had been here forever. A punishment for a crime I didn’t commit. Still, it was necessary just to save a few coins to buy a measly meal. Every day was grueling and today was worse. The muscles in my arms felt like they were going to snap. My shovel dropped to the floor with a clang. Sweat dripped into my eyes as I dared a quick break. The other boys kept shovelling. The huge furnace bulged as it was fed. Hot red steam billowed out of its pipes and clouded the air. Pulling off my shoes, I sat in a lump of coal and rubbed my aching feet.

“What are you doing?” whispered the boy next to me. “You’ll get us-“ The door burst open with a violent bang that sent a shiver up my spine. A large figure filled the doorway, blurred by the steamy air. It was the Coal Master. He was a black silhouette against the light pouring in from the deck. The dirty wooden floorboards shook as he stomped in. My heart beat so fast it nearly flew out of my chest.

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Cast of Wonders 185: Marley and Cratchit

Show Notes

Thanks for listening, and from all of us we wish you the merriest of holidays and a happy new year!


Marley and Cratchit

by David Steffen

STAVE 1: THE MARVELOUS MACHINE

In those days Jacob Marley was full of life and vigor.  His smile shone so that anyone who saw him soon smiled widely in return.  A moment in his presence would make one’s worst burdens seem lighter. His optimism and generosity brought out the best in others, catching easily as a torch in dry straw.

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Cast of Wonders 184: Wine for Witches, Milk for Saints


Wine for Witches, Milk for Saints

by Rachael K. Jones

My grandmother would have disapproved of a Tinker in a Father Christmas suit, my customary dress in the children’s hospital each December. She believed no good could come of frivolity in our profession, when a routine procedure could end in tragedy. I saw her point when I found myself delivering bad news in costume to a 7-year-old and her sick friend on Christmas Eve.

Maria wasn’t supposed to be in Lia’s hospital room to begin with. She should have been in the Puppet Ward with her little brother Enzo, who was infected with puppetism. Instead, the two young girls curled up cross-legged on the hospital bed, divvying up sweets I knew Lia shouldn’t eat in her condition. Congenital heart failure didn’t require abstention from sugar, but with her transfer imminent, the Coromancers advised against heavy food, as it could interfere with medical magic.

I didn’t know how she’d smuggled in the contraband, but that was Maria. It wasn’t easy for siblings of sick children, stuck in a hospital for days on end. Maria coped by slipping into all sorts of places she shouldn’t go. But on Christmas Eve, we all tended to look the other way.

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Cast of Wonders 175: Above Decks


Above Decks

by Tery Ibele

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

It felt like I had been here forever. A punishment for a crime I didn’t commit. Still, it was necessary just to save a few coins to buy a measly meal. Every day was grueling and today was worse. The muscles in my arms felt like they were going to snap. My shovel dropped to the floor with a clang. Sweat dripped into my eyes as I dared a quick break. The other boys kept shovelling. The huge furnace bulged as it was fed. Hot red steam billowed out of its pipes and clouded the air.  Pulling off my shoes, I sat in a lump of coal and rubbed my aching feet.

“What are you doing?” whispered the boy next to me. “You’ll get us-“ The door burst open with a violent bang that sent a shiver up my spine. A large figure filled the doorway, blurred by the steamy air. It was the Coal Master. He was a black silhouette against the light pouring in from the deck. The dirty wooden floorboards shook as he stomped in. My heart beat so fast it nearly flew out of my chest.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 151: Master Madrigal’s Mechanical Man (Staff Pick 2014)

Show Notes

Every year in January Cast of Wonders takes a break to catch our breath, plan out the year ahead, and highlight some of our favourite episodes from the year just passed.

We hope you enjoy Marguerite’s favorite story from 2014, Master Madrigal’s Mechanical Man by Scott C. Mikula, which originally aired March 23, 2014 as Cast of Wonders 120.


Master Madrigal’s Mechanical Man

by Scott C. Mikula

I tried to shut out the crowd’s roar, but the thunder of a thousand feet pounding above us in the arena stands rose until I could feel the breastplate of the mechanical swordsman vibrate beneath my touch.  Master Madrigal gestured with his palsied hand for me to replace the automaton’s helmet, but I hesitated to examine the delicate inner workings. Just one small adjustment

A cuff to the back of my head arrested my motion.  “We have spoken of this, Cetta,” said Madrigal. “There is no problem with the balance.”  He crossed his arms, tucking his useless right hand out of sight beneath his sleeve.

I persuaded my mother to send me to her uncle Madrigal after his illness, when I was just twelve years old.  The word apprentice was never used. Girls did not apprentice to craftsmen like Madrigal, and I don’t think he would have taken an apprentice in any case.  He referred to me as his hands. My deft fingers did the work his no longer could.
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Cast of Wonders 145: Tell Them Of The Sky


Tell Them of the Sky

by A. T. Greenblatt

She is too small, Kitkun thinks, the first time she enters his tiny workshop tucked between the market’s stalls. Too young to have left the nest alone. Yet, despite the years of waiting, he still feels a prick of hope as she steps out of the city’s unrelenting smog and over the threshold, thinking, perhaps she will be the one. Perhaps she will ask.

“Are you lost, child?” says Kitkun, setting down his tools. She is dressed in cream colored silk – a foolish color to wear in this city – but her shoes are covered in grime.

She nods. “I thought I saw a raven,” she says.

“And did you?”

Her face crumples with disappointment. “Nanny couldn’t keep up. She doesn’t believe birds exists.”

Kitkun smiles. Customers do not randomly wander into his shop. “Well, I do,” he says, pointing at the display next to her, “See?”
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Cast of Wonders 120: Master Madrigal’s Mechanical Man


Master Madrigal’s Mechanical Man

by Scott C. Mikula

I tried to shut out the crowd’s roar, but the thunder of a thousand feet pounding above us in the arena stands rose until I could feel the breastplate of the mechanical swordsman vibrate beneath my touch.  Master Madrigal gestured with his palsied hand for me to replace the automaton’s helmet, but I hesitated to examine the delicate inner workings. Just one small adjustment

A cuff to the back of my head arrested my motion.  “We have spoken of this, Cetta,” said Madrigal. “There is no problem with the balance.”  He crossed his arms, tucking his useless right hand out of sight beneath his sleeve.

I persuaded my mother to send me to her uncle Madrigal after his illness, when I was just twelve years old.  The word apprentice was never used. Girls did not apprentice to craftsmen like Madrigal, and I don’t think he would have taken an apprentice in any case.  He referred to me as his hands. My deft fingers did the work his no longer could.
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Cast of Wonders 73: Mr. Nine and the Gentleman Ghost

Show Notes

Today we present Aidan Doyle’s story, Mr. Nine and the Gentleman Ghost, which was originally published on the Weird Tales web site. Aidan’s been with us before; he wrote Episode 31, Inksucker. Aidan is an Australian writer and computer programmer who loves travelling and has visited more than 80 countries. His experiences include teaching English in Japan, interviewing ninjas in Bolivia and going ten-pin bowling in North Korea. His stories have been published in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons and Fantasy.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.


Mr. Nine and the Gentleman Ghost

by Aidan Doyle

Elisabeth gave her invitation to the valet and received a gilt-edged program in return. It welcomed her to the Bearbrass Gentle Ladies Society Monthly Ball. The valet glanced at Elisabeth’s satchel and then escorted her into the ballroom.

Bearbrass had been a sleepy colonial outpost until gold was discovered in the nearby hills. Within three years, it had been transformed into the largest city in all of the colonies. Elisabeth did not think of it as necessarily an improvement.

A dozen chandeliers clung to the ceiling and paintings imported from the empire competed for space on the walls. An orchestra of more than twenty musicians waited on the stage at the far end of the room.

Mrs. Rittiker, the president of the Bearbrass Gentle Ladies Society, greeted Elisabeth at the entrance. She was a short, stout woman in her early fifties and wore a purple chiffon gown with a plunging neckline. “You’ve come without a chaperone again,” she said. “If I were half the gentle lady I pretend to be, I would be thoroughly scandalized.”
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