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Author Topic: PC227: The Yew’s Embrace  (Read 2496 times)
Ocicat
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« on: September 25, 2012, 10:02:20 PM »

PodCastle 227: The Yew’s Embrace

by Francesca Forrest.

Read by Stephanie Morris.

Originally appeared in Strange Horizons.  Read the text there.


We could still see the old king’s blood in the cracks in the flagstones beneath the new king’s feet when he announced to us all that this was a unification, not a conquest, and that we had nothing to fear from the soldiers that fenced us round. The new king said that my sister the queen would become his wife and that he’d make the old king’s baby son his very own heir. That’s how much he loved and honored our people, he said.

A month later, on a stormy day when the rain blew in at the windows and puddled on the floor, and we were huddled round the hearth, spinning by the light of oil lamps, the king burst in, soaking wet. Eyes a-glitter, he told my sister that he had caught Lele, the wet nurse, down by the stream at the edge of the grove of the gods, drowning the baby prince.

“She said she wouldn’t permit him to grow up under my authority,” he said. “I tried to save him, but I was too late.” He held up his dripping hands. River weed clung to his arms above the elbows.

“She’ll be punished, though,” the king continued, and you could see his whole body trembling like a struck bell as he spoke. It was anger, red anger, that caused him to shake. None of us dared to move. “I’ve ordered her flayed alive in the grove of the gods. It will stand as a lesson,” he said, catching us each by eye, one by one, lingering on my sister. “No one may cross me. I will show no mercy to those who oppose me.”


Rated R for violence.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
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John_in_Calgary
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« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2012, 07:41:09 PM »

Sorry Podcastle, your technical work on this piece was excellent as always. Only the story itself, as well as the long introduction to it, just didn't find a welcome in my heart. Not sure if it was just my mood or something else that kept me from liking it.
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Kaa
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« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2012, 08:54:16 PM »

The depth of my love for this story more than makes up for John_in_Calgary's unwelcoming heart. Smiley I love a good fairy tale, and this had all the elements. I was shocked when Dave said it was less than 3000 words. It felt more ... well, epic, than that. Which is awesome in so short a tale. It gave just enough background to tantalize with hints of a greater world outside the story without weighing us down with unnecessary exposition. Brava.

And as J_i_C said, the technical stuff was excellent. Stephanie Morris knocked it out of the park on this one.

Also, thanks to L. M. Boston's wonderful The Children of Green Knowe series when I was a kid, I love me some yew trees. They always mean magic for me, and this certainly didn't disappoint.
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I invent imaginary people and make them have conversations in my head. I also write.

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Devoted135
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2012, 03:06:34 PM »

I'm with Kaa, this was a fantastic story! Podcastle tends to run on the longer side, which is fine, but it's always amazing to see a 27min episode pack such a hefty punch.

When the King took on so much of the responsibility of raising his son, I worried that he would turn into a little Joffrey Baratheon. Luckily, I didn't have to wait too long to see that his sweet nature was uncorrupted and that he had quite enough protection from his father, thank you very much! Tongue

Great story, and a fantastic narration by Stephanie Morris!
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Balu
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« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2012, 07:09:08 PM »

Thank goodness I got through the vomiticious line about somebody liking something more than cream and kisses and Hallmark flavoured schmaltz. The rest of it was all kinds of good.

I particularly liked the way that the king's honest rage cleverly lent verisimilitude to both possible truths, that of the nurse killing his adopted child, and that of her trying to stop him from doing so. Either way he would have been genuinely enraged, and his evident emotional honesty made it genuinely uncertain as to what had actually happened until later in the story.

I was also really impressed by how this story managed the great trick of being believably weird. It didn't seem like it was just somebody was telling a tall tale. It was more like when you're in a dream, and grasping trees and sudden transformations all seem perfectly normal. That smooth transition from the everyday to the fantastic is so tough to pull off, but this author really nailed it.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2012, 07:11:17 PM by Balu » Logged
Scattercat
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« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2012, 10:53:03 AM »

This was extremely enjoyable.  I like misguided revenge; it's a theme in a lot of my favorite works.  (70s-era Ghost Rider, hell yeah!)

The only complaint I had initially was that the little kid just kind of dropped it out there instead of letting the creepy feeling build up.  But this is PodCastle, not Pseudopod; that would definitely be shading more toward a horror story than a fantasy.  (Not that this isn't a pretty horrific story, but creeping you out isn't its main goal.)

I think this one did a much better job of conveying the sense of an eerie, inhuman deity than "Hand of God," actually; ask for revenge, become a hypnotic strangulation tree, but ask for a little boy to be saved, and he gets turned into a bird because fuck you, apparently.  Tree gods, man.  Total fuckers.
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Kaa
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« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2012, 11:24:50 AM »

but ask for a little boy to be saved, and he gets turned into a bird because fuck you, apparently.

I had that same thought, although not as eloquently stated. Smiley
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I invent imaginary people and make them have conversations in my head. I also write.

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empathy44
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« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2012, 01:32:04 AM »

think this one did a much better job of conveying the sense of an eerie, inhuman deity than "Hand of God," actually; ask for revenge, become a hypnotic strangulation tree, but ask for a little boy to be saved, and he gets turned into a bird because fuck you, apparently.  Tree gods, man.  Total fuckers.

I respectfully disagree. Not with the tree gods being total fuckers; because, well, of course. But this revenge seemed very logical and human. Almost as if the tree and the gods thought the people in the palace needed to be punished as well. Or else they saw the future paths of all outcomes and that was the best they could come up with. *shrug* If they had done something truly impenetrable that would be a different, more mystical story.

One aspect I really, really liked was the real world consequences of these mystical happenings. At first, I wondered why since the king was dead people would battle for him. Then I realized they would just use that as a cover to hide their own aspirations.
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2012, 05:20:00 PM »

I'm pretty regular over at EscapePod, but this is my first branch out into PodCastle.

Overall I enjoyed this story. When the boy was turned into a bird, I was pissed. It seemed so unfair to take away the life that he would have had. However, I loved the way the people used him, the brown bird with the red marks, as an emblem for the nation after that. Awesome.

Unlike others though, I had a really hard time with the reading of this story. Stephanie has a beautiful, soothing voice that I really enjoyed. However, every time she ended a word with a hard G, kinG, wronG, amonG, it yanked me right out of the story. Maybe I'm just being nit-picky, but I found it very distracting. As I said, I really liked Stephanie's voice, and I don't want this to sound like a harsh criticism. At the beginning of the episode it was stated that Stephanie is taking voice training. I think this is an area for her to focus on.
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« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2012, 07:45:00 AM »

The only thing that I didn't like about this story is the less-than-desirable low-contrast heraldry of red-on-brown charges.

Otherwise we have a story that can be taken on multiple levels. All of the fantastic could be finely crafted window dressing to rally the troops, when the truth lies closer to Machiavellian machinations. Or we're left wondering what games the gods of this world are playing with the game pieces on their board.
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All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”
InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2012, 01:50:24 AM »

Did this not show up in iTunes for anyone else?
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #11 on: October 05, 2012, 03:07:00 PM »

I really liked it for what it was, a tale of divine justice. Well, justice of a sort. I'm not sure I agree with the solution of the oaks. And I really wished the spirit of the drowned boy had in turn drowned that murderous King's ass.

That said, I was thinking of the bloodbath George R.R. Martin would make of the outcome of this story.

I also like the way the author's real life experience inspired this tale.

(had to listen on the Website)
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Fenrix
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« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2012, 12:28:27 AM »

Did this not show up in iTunes for anyone else?

Showed up fine on mine.
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« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2012, 12:02:14 PM »

I generally enjoyed this.  I like how the prayer's were answered but in non straightforward ways.  You get what you ask for, but not what you expect.  Sort of reminds me a "deal-with-the-devil" kind of format, except that the god's seem willing to do good things on request , but also determined to do them in ways that will probably piss you off.
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hearken
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« Reply #14 on: October 30, 2012, 08:26:42 PM »

I really liked that this story felt like a fable in the first person. It reminded me of a book I had when I was younger that had little stories about the origins of a number of flags and symbols of countries around the world. It's not hard to imagine the core facts presented here being twisted and manipulated through the years, and I'd think I'd like to hear that story too.
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« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2012, 12:58:54 PM »

Not much to say on this one, other than I love how a simple thing as a boy getting stuck in a tree could evolve into a beautiful tale such as this.
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