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Author Topic: PC411: Hands of Burnished Bronze  (Read 3454 times)


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on: April 12, 2016, 04:12:28 PM
PodCastle 411: Hands of Burnished Bronze

by Rebecca Schwarz

read by Cheyenne Wright

A PodCastle Original!

“Tell me you have found a spell to lift this curse, old friend.”

What passes between us is many things, but even after all these years, I wouldn’t call it friendship. His haunted eyes search mine from under a brow etched with lines. His beard now streaked with gray. Years ago, when the King swept into my homeland and took me into his service it was with the understanding that I would not leave it alive. In those days, I thought myself a far better magician than I was. It was King Hroth that made me the powerful wizard that I am. Every town and castle he captured, he ordered his men to bring him the resident magician. Some were renowned, others little more than tricksters or court fools. He personally tortured all of them with me by his side to claim the secrets they divulged.

I have no good answer for him, so I remain silent.

“I made you,” he growls low in my ear. “Find a way out of this or I will end you.”

Rated PG-13.

By day, Rebecca Schwarz is a mild-mannered editorial assistant for a scientific journal, by night she writes science fiction and fantasy stories. Her work has appeared in Interzone, Bourbon Penn, and Daily Science Fiction. She is currently writing her first novel. You can read about her writing life at

Cheyenne Wright is the color artist on the Hugo Award winning graphic novel series Girl Genius. A freelance illustrator of many fine table-top projects; Like “Deadlands Noir”, and the “Professor Elemental” edition of the “Pairs” card-game. He is NOT the Lord of a subterranean colony of Mole-people bent on world subjugation. Such claims are libelous and unfounded. As is the ground beneath those who repeat them. [You have been warned sun-sucking dirt walkers]. More info about Cheyenne’s current plans for a better world [all of them… better worlds] can be found at

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: May 03, 2016, 03:21:07 PM by Talia »


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Reply #1 on: April 20, 2016, 02:33:55 PM
Ooohhh, this was really good.  The way that the sorceror gained his power by the king strategically torturing other sorcerors was dark in a horribly pragmatic kind of way.  Those poor orphaned children too.  I do like magic stories best when the magic has a clear cost so the vindictive cost of the magic here was very well done.  And how in the end he at least managed some small redemption by opening the doors to his fate (though lying down to a death that will keep coming for you no matter what you do doesn't exactly balance out even the effects of the bronze spell).


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Reply #2 on: April 24, 2016, 08:45:33 PM
I second Unblinking's comments. 

This was like cream from milk.  Well written, well structured, and well deserved fates for all involved.  Practical, reasonable, as well as horrible, behaviour from the King.  I agree with the outro comment, that is was an interesting switch that the king made the magician and not the other way round, though it was fitting that the magician unmade the king.

And 100 points for the narration, such a splendid reading :-)


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Reply #3 on: April 25, 2016, 12:39:04 AM
^ what they said


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Reply #4 on: April 26, 2016, 08:59:17 PM
This is a well told story of that is a common theme in fantasy, that magic can do anything... for a price.  This is a deliciously set piece of revenge and karma as the very instrument of conquest becomes a terrible curse, but not overnight.  Over a period of years.  Then to tell the story from the view of the wizard who set off the disaster, though goaded by the king, and see him finally succumb to the guilt was both satisfying and disturbing.  He reminds me of the wizard Mr. Norrell with an actual conscience, collecting his spells and attempting to ignore the cost, until it becomes too much and overwhelms him.  And, there is also the little hands...  creepy.


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Reply #5 on: April 29, 2016, 08:49:28 PM
 Yes! It plays on tropes of magic well. This is a story that will stay with me for a good, long time.


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Reply #6 on: May 02, 2016, 02:08:31 PM
In full agreement with the above.  

"But I hear them still... the sound of a thing that cannot be undone."  This single phrase narrated with heart-rending perfection, this is what got me off the sidelines today. The story as a whole, and this part in particular, is resonating like a gong through me.  So rich.  Such depth.  Just "wow!".  

I've been a listener for a long time - I've listened to every episode on all 3 podcasts. I have a couple newer episodes in my queue to listen to, but I cannot start them.  I tried, but my mind keeps skipping out and back to this story.  I'll savor it for a while longer, maybe give the next in queue a more fair chance tomorrow.

[added]  So I've had a day and a second listen.  I think the reason this particular sentenced resonated so much was because it is the first glimmer we see that there is some sincere humanity left within this character.  His soul hasn't been completely squashed by his king nor by his choices.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2016, 04:36:57 PM by irishlazz »

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." A.Einstein


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Reply #7 on: May 17, 2016, 06:52:32 PM
Powerful story that really explores the existential cost of magic. IMO a common hallmark of a really good fantasy story is that it acknowledges and accounts for the physical costs involved with performing magic. I'm not sure I've seen one take it to this level before, where the wielder of magic (either directly as the magician or indirectly as his King) will eventually experience suffering equal to what he caused. Some really haunting images here.


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Reply #8 on: May 19, 2016, 07:49:35 AM
This story was just perfect.


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Reply #9 on: May 27, 2016, 05:15:34 PM
Overall, I really liked this story. Initially I was under the impression that the wizard liked who he had become, or rather, how powerful he was. I don't know if it was because of something I missed in the beginning of the story, the narrator (whose did an amazing job), or just my own cynicism, but I was under the impression that the wizard was at least OK with what he had done, because it made him so powerful. In the middle of the story, the wizard's guilt at his atrocities was talked about, and I felt jolted. All of a sudden I had to completely rebuild this character in my head. Maybe I'm the only one that felt that way?

I loved it though. The narration was awesome, and I loved that the treasure came back and got vengeance on the king.