Tales of Old
Summary: Audio magazine for historical fiction and alternate history. Each week we feature a historical fiction short story. Historians and literature fans will enjoy these great stories that span history from Ancient Greece to World War II.
By Patrick Glancy link to Patrick's screenplay Read by Mark Vevers link to Mark's blog Setting: Britain in the 1300's “Hear ye, hear ye,” he bellowed. “My lord and master, the honorable Earl of Northumberland, has need of entertainment. Be there a jongleur or troubadour among ye? If there be, my lord is prepared to offer him a handsome, nay spectacular payment in exchange for his services, should he render them to my esteemed lord’s satisfaction.” He paused for a moment, scanning his eyes across the room, and finishing in a moderately quieter and more informal tone. “Are there any takers?” No one moved or said anything right away. I could see the innkeeper coldly staring at me from behind the bar, silently imploring me to keep my mouth shut. Unfortunately, I’ve never quite mastered that trick. After a moment, I cleared my throat and got to my feet. “Henry Larksong, troubadour extraordinaire,” I announced with a slightly theatrical bow. “At your service.”
By Michelle Markey Butler Read by Shawn Robertson Setting: 10th Century Ireland There's one — possibly only one — benefit to giving up ale. When everyone else passes out on the floor, you get the fire to yourself. I rolled Vetr out of the way and pulled the bench closer to the hearth, stretching my legs towards the flames. Heat crept through my boots. Gods. My feet hadn't been warm since fall. Vetr snorted, turning over and throwing an elbow into Buldi's gut. Buldi's snores stuttered as he in turn rolled over, smacking Karli across the face. Karli didn't move. I'd seen Karli empty a dozen tankards. He'd wake with a bruise but sure as hell won't know where it came from.
Tommy's Ambush by Teel. James Glenn. Link to interview on Pulped July 17, 2012 episode. Thomas Mahoney walked beside the O’Rourke wagon as it clattered along the forest road but he kept stumbling because he never looked down at the trail. His eyes were on Mary O’Rourke who sat beside her gruff servant Shamus O’Toole and shyly pretended to ignore the gangly Tommy. She could not help herself from acknowledging him each time he stumbled headlong on his face with a chuckle that was half-snort and half burp. Fickle Finger of Fate by Donna Marie Nowak There was nothing deadlier than a co-star with bad breath. Bebe Vance figured she had reached the nadir of her career in Filmont Studios with this screwball “love scene” that would make her the laughing stock of Hollywood. So Harrison said it was going to be duck soup from now on, a five picture contract, her name back in lights on moving picture marquees? He didn’t mention Liver Breath. Even if Harrison Filmont was top producer on the lot, “Emperor of the Throne Room,” and her bread and butter, it wasn’t worth it. This shameless ham Pierre was coddled like a Lilliputian among Gullivers, despite having been fired from several sets on account of his unpredictable temperament. To add to her humiliation, the public now pressed against the gates to glimpse him, not her!
By T. Lee Harris Read by Shawn Robertson I awoke to a woman screaming. This was, however, not unusual. Since I came to live in Pi-Ramesses, I’d shared a room with my cousin Ahmose over his widowed mother’s linen shop. Aunt Tiaa was my mother’s sister and that side of the family was never noted for placidity. She was in rare form and the apprentices were taking the brunt of it. At a fresh volley, Mose and I exchanged glances. We dressed fast and ran for it. I was luckier than Mose. He worked in the shop. I’d recently landed a job in the House of Life archives at the temple of Bastet. The temple precincts were busier than usual with everyone preparing for the big festival that was coming up. Few pharaohs had seen the thirty-year reign required to hold their first Heb-Sed. The divine Ramesses II was celebrating his second. Ten days of feasting and fun. I was looking forward to it.
by Laird Long read by Shawn Robertson I was peacefully quaffing a jorum of scotch broth when Cleve Sistern elbowed his way onto the bar next to me, yammered, “Hey, how’s my favorite redheaded accounting dick?” I hung the frosty focus on his porcine features. Added, “Go climb your thumb.” He persisted. “Got a job for you, Acton. Need you to check up on things at the grain elevator. Somethin’ fishy’s goin’ on out there.” The barkeep drifted down, looked at Sistern. Sistern looked at me; the gink’s cheap that way, and all others. The barkeep gave it up, drifted away. “One day’s work,” Sistern started in again. “I’ll pay ya.” He dug a paw into his flannel legwraps and pulled out a terminally shy wallet, opened it up with a rusty groan. Then he placed a crisp, never-been-used twenty dollar bill down on the bar with all the solemnity of a soldier being laid to rest.
By Gary Ives (some of Gary's stories: Indian Agent, Renegade, Cowboy Luck, Can You Come Here for Christmas?) Read by Shawn Robertson Lars, Eric, Juanita, and Sandy and Peter Vestergard sat in the shady section of the Rodeo Pavilion at the fairgrounds listening to the school choir sing “Colombia the Gem of the Ocean.” The pavilion, draped in bunting, was new and still smelled of the rough oak timbers. The track below had been strewn with a dozen wagonloads of sawdust for the dedication of the new pavilion and the Fourth of July Parade. The year was 1928, Sonoma County was booming. The Vestergard family sat among the honored wealthy who’d donated the funds for the fine new pavilion. Lars’ Stetson, Eric’s hamburg, Jaunita’s ostrich and egret plumed hat, and Sandy’s new boater-- in their royal crowns the Vestergards did indeed appear regal, American Royal. Lars thought of Sandy, Eric pondered the placement of the new pavilion’s exits, Juanita prayed that this event would end soon, and Sandy wondered how Lars would react to the idea of planting vines at the ranch. He was certain that repeal would come and perhaps sooner rather than later. Most vineyards had been plowed under the year after Prohibition. Now his 50 acres of established vines were a gold mine, a positive gold mine. Wealth, he thought, is truly understood only by the wealthy themselves.
By Sondra Kelly-Green Read by Mark Vevers Some other works by Sondra Kelly-Green: Burning Mary, Crashing, Now Showing Shawn's Standup routine It was bewitched, he swore, and said he would vow the same under oath. This the officers thought an even finer joke. Evil and bewitched and under oath! Your father stood a bit straighter and held his palm up in a mock vow, a trembling yet determined smile on his lips. My heart clenched at this, and those who knew and loved him best, looked firmly away as others laughed. I wonder, Nephew, if he would share our fireside this night had he not touched the cursed thing. Some things are only for the Almighty to know, and this is one of them. But touched it he did and many others too. We watched it pass from man to man, each eager to be the one who gave voice to the alpenhorn.
By Sondra Kelly-Green Read by Mark Vevers We were on the march through the Black Forest, or as the Germans call it, the Schwarzwald. In my thinking, it’s a name of darkness and the Devil’s-own evil. Yet it sets a theme as apt as any for our tale. Your father and I were among Marshal Tallard’s forces for the French Empire. Our detachment, as you know, was the last returning from the Danube, which flows to the east of the Black Forest. Before us was the River Rhein, just to the west of it. The Schwarzwald. That wretched divide of rocky cliffs and deep forested valleys neatly cut our army in two. At the Danube we had just reinforced the French commander Marsin with men and munitions. And so, traveling light, we were soon to embrace our beloved France beyond the Rhein. Our troop was under the command of Count Mérode-Westerloo, a jaunty, prideful man. He was held in high regard at Versailles. Still, his own soldiers had few reasons to admire him. Our pay and food, you see, never arrived when promised. To tell it true, hunger was as much our enemy as the English. Yet stranded in a dense, unknown forest we thought it best to stay on the march, where at least some food made its way down the ranks.
By Wallace Nichols Read by Shawn Robertson One morning in the late Roman spring Solius the slave, returning from an errand for his master, Titius Sabinus, the senator, heard hurrying footsteps behind him. Continuing on his way, the slave detective, for so ran his fame in Rome, slightly slackened his pace to let the other overtake him.
By Bret Harte Read by Shawn Robertson As Mr. John Oakhurst, Gambler, stepped into the main street of Poker Flat on the morning of the twentythird of November, 1850, he was conscious of a change in its moral atmosphere since the preceding night. Two or three men, conversing earnestly together, ceased as he approached, and exchanged significant glances. There was. a Sabbath lull in the air, which, in a settlement unused to Sabbath influences, looked ominous. Mr Oakhurst's calm, handsome face betrayed small concern in these indications. Whether he was conscious of any predisposing cause was another question. "I reckon they're after somebody," he reflected; "likely it's me." He returned to his pocket the handkerchief with which he had been whipping away the red dust of Poker Flat from his neat boots, and quietly discharged his mind of any further conjecture.
By Bruce Markuson Read by Shawn Robertson “This is it, Big Louie’s private speakeasy. One of those illegal gin joints back in the 1920’s and 30’s. In its day, this place was the cat’s meow. The police padlocked the steel door and bricked up the back door within days after the murder. There are no other entrances. They never came back to investigate. They concluded that it was Big Louie’s gun, and Big Louie committed the murder as a show, and that was that.“
By Gerri Leen Read by Shawn Robertson Sir Francis Drake sat in the moonlight, watching as the movement of the Defiance made his claret swish back and forth in the exquisitely chased silver goblet he'd stolen years ago from the Spaniards. He'd tried to get more treasure this trip, tried to take it from the Dons at San Juan harbor. What a fiasco that had proved. A cannonball had nearly ended him. But his infamous luck had held out. he hadn't been in bed when the great ball of iron tore through the hull and landed where he should have been lying.
The Good of Sparta by Gustavo Bondoni blog read by Shawn Robertson There are some tasks that a man must do alone. These are the moments that define whether one understands the truth or lives a lie. Whether one is able to bow to the will of the Gods or is unable to understand that the will of the gods will come to pass regardless of the resistance of any mortal. That Sparta shall be protected, now and forever. The way of Sparta is as it must be: absolute, unwavering. This is reflected in the glory of the city. A monolith, forever mighty. Spiking the Guns by C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne read by Shawn Robertson "The regiment will be annihilated," observed the Adjutant, coolly. And then, in the same immovable tones, he asked someone to pass him a biscuit.
By Lesley Lodge Read by Kevin Harty In my experience, those who beg for mercy seldom deserve it. They’d told Wayland these were the last words Rebecca heard, before she died and night after night those words and her desperate gasps hunted him through his nightmares. That year, though, fate was to offer him up a full revenge. Revenge is, as they say, is a dish best served cold. Summer of 1647 it was, a period of some small respite from the English civil war, at least in the county of Essex. Wayland, the village blacksmith, had returned from his service with the Parliamentary forces. His young son, a crouched, smoky shape in a corner of the smithy, was watching the sharp white sparks fly into the soft fleshy-red of the furnace. Neither spoke – the boy sensing perhaps that his father was somehow trying to hammer out more than the molten iron. Thirty roughly-formed pike points lay waiting because Wayland still couldn’t bring himself to work the finer stuff. Instead, he pounded on, absorbed. Only when he rested the hammer did he hear the disturbance outside. The smithy door burst open and the sudden light threw a shaft of fizzing dust across the coke-dark smithy. Instantly, the boy drew back into a corner. Three men crashed in, only to stop short, squinting through the light. These men were not built strong like Wayland; they’d grown up pale and spindly, like rye sprouts under a bucket.
by Eamonn Murphy (SF Crowsnest, where Eamonn's reviews SF) read by Tony Honickberg ‘The Bull McGee is back in town!’ I was sat in a coffee shop in the High Street, near the docks, when young Billy Smith came bursting in with that news. Every head in that crowded place turned to look at him when he shouted thus and about half of them, those in the know, turned to look at me straight after. I paused with a mug halfway to my mouth as a terrible premonition came to me of my own headstone. It read: ‘John Jackson. Born 15th June 1730, Gloucester; Died 2nd September 1752, Bristol.’ It was not a pleasant vision.