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Author Topic: PC262: The Dragonslayer of Merebarton  (Read 6470 times)
Talia
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« on: May 30, 2013, 08:14:58 AM »

PodCastle 262: The Dragonslayer of Merebarton

by K.J. Parker

Read by Daniel Foley

Originally published in Fearsome Journeys, edited by Jonathan Strahan.

On reflection, if I hadn’t seen those wretched White Drakes in Outremer, there’s a reasonable chance I’d have refused to believe in a dragon trashing Merebarton, and then, who knows, it might’ve flown away and bothered someone else. Well, you don’t know, that’s the whole point. It’s that very ignorance that makes life possible. But when Ebba told me what the boy told him he’d seen, immediately I thought; White Drake. Clearly it wasn’t one, but it was close enough to something I’d seen to allow belief to seep into my mind, and then I was done for. No hope.

Even so, I think I said, “Are you sure?” about six or seven times, until eventually it dawned on me I was making a fool of myself. At which point, a horrible sort of mist of despair settled over me, as I realised that this extraordinary, impossible, grossly and viciously unfair thing had landed on me, and that I was going to have to deal with it.

But you do your best. You struggle, just as a man crushed under a giant stone still draws in the last one or two desperate whistling breaths; pointless, but you can’t just give up. So I looked him steadily in the eye, and I said, “So, what do they expect me to do about it?”


Rated R. Contains violence, strong language, and everything else that goes with slaying dragons.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: June 20, 2013, 07:51:11 AM by Talia » Logged
InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2013, 11:47:46 PM »

I usually like long stories, but while the writing was good, it was so disjointed in narrative and relaxed - even gloomy- in the telling, that I had a hard time making a connection with what was going on. It's a good character piece, and a nice change from "big strong hero saves the day", but it needed to move from a walk through a canter to a gallop.
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Kaa
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« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2013, 12:53:39 PM »

Yes. Everything InfiniteMonkey said. I really enjoyed the last part, but the character kept going on these long, rambling digressions. I kept thinking *I* had missed something that would make the digression pertain, but when I rewound, either I ended up getting distracted at the same point over and over, or it was just what it seemed: a tangent that had nothing to do with the action of the story. Case in point: the flute the main character loaned/gave to the young man who died in the pond. I kept thinking it would be important because it was just kind of wedged in there...but no. It was just yet another diversion.

Not my favorite episode. Perhaps it would be better read than heard.
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« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2013, 01:34:59 PM »

  Yeah, perhaps a quicker pace would have helped, but I just wasn't digging this. 
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Just Jeff
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« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2013, 03:39:01 PM »

I probably would have enjoyed reading this, but the narration did not work for me. I also forgot which names went with which characters, which is trivial to fix in the written word, but not worth the effort in audio. That may have hampered my investment in the non-POV characters.
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Frungi
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« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2013, 09:07:17 PM »

The narrative struck me as anachronistic to the setting. But it worked, and I enjoyed it, along with the story (though I seem to be in the minority in that, so far). The reader was difficult to understand at times, and I’m not sure whether that’s a result of accent or recording quality, but it wasn’t a huge issue, and I was still able to enjoy the story.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2013, 09:08:58 PM by Frungi » Logged
stgurgel
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« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2013, 07:20:01 AM »

What an absolutely lovely character presentation, paired with the perfect narrator for it.
One of the best pieces of fiction I've had the pleasere of listening to in a long time
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Moritz
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« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2013, 01:42:17 PM »

I had difficulties following the story - I had to relisten to it to get the full story - I also didn't find the setting very appealing, but I wouldn't call the story bad as such.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2013, 07:12:48 AM »

Wow. That was slow. And long. And full of interesting tangents. The thing about a tangent is that on the one hand it's just a cool word for dividing two sides of a straight edge triangle. On the other hand, when you plot it on a graph it keeps going off to infinity and coming back from minus infinity (whatever that means). However it is more commonly used to define a straight line that touches a function at exactly one point, or connects two infinitely close points on the curve of the function. The word "tangent" has entered the English language from Mathematics and is used to describe something that is distantly related (not like the third cousin of your uncle's second wife, but the other kind of related) to the topic at hand. Like the mathematic function, if you don't set guiding lines to your tangent it can and will go off into infinity.
I think the part I liked best about this story was the reading. The narrator was spot on for this slow and rambling recollection of a cynical old knight who just tries to do his best. However, there some technical issues with the recording. The volume changed often, and without warning. Very soft suddenly became very loud suddenly went back to normal but was now very soft because I'd turned down the volume of my player.
All in all, this gets a "meh" from me.
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Kaa
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« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2013, 08:00:30 AM »

Wow. That was slow. And long. And full of interesting tangents. The thing about a tangent is that . . . it can and will go off into infinity.

I see what you did, there. Smiley
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2013, 11:12:55 AM »

In tone, this story reminded me of Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane: the earthy nobleman, committed to a genuine attitude of nobless oblige, living in genteel poverty more alongside than above the people he technically rules, unwanted glory from a dragonslaying achieved more as a job than an exploit, and a character attempting to use his cleverness, rather than his strength of arms, to kill the beast.

Of course, Dragonsbane takes the story in a different - and, in my opinion, ultimately more satisfying [NOTE: Until Hambly changes her mind and decides that the universe isn't depressing enough] - direction.

That said, I enjoyed this story a great deal. I enjoy tales about characters struggling against fate. I like how this story took what dragons represent - the wild, uncaring, destructive force of nature - and really played that to the hilt. As I implied above, I enjoyed the rustic feel of this story. It's a neat, atypical approach to the fantasy trope of nobleman-hero.

My only gripe with this story was the audio quality. The narrator's voice seemed to periodically dive down to a near-inaudible volume. I don't know if something was wrong with his microphone, or how he was using it, or the mixing, but it nearly drove me away from the story, which would have been a shame, as I enjoyed it.
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Frungi
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« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2013, 02:20:33 PM »

The thing about a tangent is that on the one hand it's just a cool word for dividing two sides of a straight edge triangle. On the other hand, when you plot it on a graph it keeps going off to infinity and coming back from minus infinity (whatever that means).

Sorry for the tangent, but I love this as a metaphor.
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2013, 06:34:26 PM »

I for the most part quite enjoyed this story. I liked the twist on the grand old hero tale, and actually found the tangents fairly interesting, if overly used. The side stories about the tired warrior uncle and the chickens especially gave a depth to the main character. Also, loved some of the metaphors and descriptions; comparing a broken chamber pot to plate armor? So awesome. Tiny farting lizards? Why yes, please tell me more. I thought the ending was cathartic and a good choice, but with so much time given to the main character, other character actions and demises did not have quite the heavy impact I think the author was hoping for.

The downside of this story was how, shall I say, flabby it is. There were a lot of extra things that just seemed to drag the rest of the story down that would have been an easy cut. For example, the guy in the lake? Just seemed unnecessary. (A separate note on the lake guy; took me a rewind to even realize that he died. It didn't seem very clear to me, and it should've been, seeing how much time the author spent on him. Also, I'm not an outdoorsman by any means, but I don't really see how jumping in a lake with a soft bottom kills you. Kinda seems like you'd just get messy feet.)

I loved the narrator. He had these nice subtle changes between characters. I found him easy to listen to, and thought he captured the tired-ness and world weariness of the main character quite well. He managed to make sounding uninterested in a task really engaging. Impressive.

One thing I didn't quite like; none of the female characters had names, from what I remember. All the males, even insignificant ones, got to be called something, but none of the ladies. (I might be wrong, but I was listening for it, specifically, for the last half of the story, once I got thinking about it.) Just an odd choice that rubbed me the wrong way.



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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2013, 02:23:18 AM »

The thing about a tangent is that on the one hand it's just a cool word for dividing two sides of a straight edge triangle. On the other hand, when you plot it on a graph it keeps going off to infinity and coming back from minus infinity (whatever that means).

Sorry for the tangent, but I love this as a metaphor.

Also, please note the use of the word "plot".

(A separate note on the lake guy; took me a rewind to even realize that he died. It didn't seem very clear to me, and it should've been, seeing how much time the author spent on him. Also, I'm not an outdoorsman by any means, but I don't really see how jumping in a lake with a soft bottom kills you. Kinda seems like you'd just get messy feet.)

If one were to jump into a shallow lake with a muddy bottom one of two things is likely to occur:
1. One's neck would snap on the bottom of the lake. A muddy bottom is still quite hard when one hits it fast, and if one's head were to get stuck and the body torques out at just the wrong way...
2. One would get stuck in the mud and drown on it.

I didn't at first realize that he was dead either, but from the context I eventually got it.
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« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2013, 07:05:37 AM »

Usually I am one of the first and steadiest complainers about a story that might be too long, but I didn't have that problem with that one because it fit the character.  The story felt like he was telling it in the pub sometime after the fact and what pub-story is told in the most efficient manner possible, when there's more grog to be had by dragging it out?

If I were a knight, I think I'd be one more like this guy than the stereotype, just trying to do the work as best I can and trying to figure out effective ways to do the work.  The guy reminded me a lot of Sam Vimes from Discworld, willing to kick his opponent in the nads if that's the way to get the job done.
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DoctorBob
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« Reply #15 on: June 05, 2013, 08:58:38 AM »

I've been listening to Podcastle since the beginning, but this is the first story that absolutely moved me to post. I loved how the story about the dragon was mainly an excuse for an exploration of the lead character's life as a knight. I loved how the tale of the heroic knight was demystified and turned into a story about his small community. The point that the heroic knight doesn't stand alone, but has bearers and retainers in combat, and peasants dependent on him in peace was perfectly put. I thought the narrator was perfect, giving the story a world-weariness that I doubt I'd notice as well if I was reading it.
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Francejackal
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« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2013, 09:37:39 PM »

 I thought this story was hilarious. Maybe the humour is understated? I like protagonists who just happen to be reluctant and bitter curmudgeons. Plus the bit about our unheroic saviour correctly planting his boar spear was priceless. It also would have been too conventional had the dying dragon not flopped over and smooshed the poor guy. This story really played to the irreverent cynic in me, and that might be the reason I enjoyed so much. Thank you Podcastle! And kudos to the author.
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benjaminjb
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« Reply #17 on: June 09, 2013, 05:11:14 PM »

I've nothing interesting to add, but I like to up my post numbers, so I'll add my name in the middle of the Venn diagram between "people who thought it was a little long" and "people who enjoyed the arch, cool sense of humor of the narrator."

This is only the second K. J. Parker, I've read, after "One Little Room an Everywhere" (http://www.nightshadebooks.com/2012/10/22/one-little-room-an-everywhere-k-j-parker/). I enjoyed that story, which has a similarly cool tone.
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« Reply #18 on: June 10, 2013, 12:51:38 PM »

I don't get on here much to high five or whine about the stories mainly because I am listening to them at night while at work and then completely forget to comment in the morning.

That being said I thought this was a great story and fantastic narration for the character.  I could almost imagine myself sitting in a tavern listening to a semiretired knight telling this tale over a stein of mead.

I was impressed, I think I will now go and increase my monthly donation to Escape Artists. Wink
« Last Edit: June 20, 2013, 01:00:22 AM by Lone Mopper » Logged

The Lone Mopper
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« Reply #19 on: June 10, 2013, 01:32:58 PM »

Listening to this story felt like curling up in a giant, downy comforter. There's way too much of it, but that's a large part of the appeal when I want to sit in front of the fire and drink hot cocoa. Very few modern stories give me that feeling, so kudos for that. Smiley

That said, I also found it impossible to keep track of the side characters and they just mostly washed by my ears. It would have been nice to have a bit more to really anchor me in the story.

Also also, Max, that was stinkin' fantastic. Cheesy


I loved how the tale of the heroic knight was demystified and turned into a story about his small community. The point that the heroic knight doesn't stand alone, but has bearers and retainers in combat, and peasants dependent on him in peace was perfectly put.

This was one of my favorite parts too. Smiley
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