Enter to win a copy of Saladin Ahmed’s new novel Throne of the Crescent Moon
“The Empire of Nothingness,” by Geoffrey Maloney
Aspley turned slowly. He had been washed ashore on the island, and in a daze, a delirium, had stumbled from the beach and into this building. He had no idea where he was or how he had come to be there. No explanations to soothe the rushing of his frantic mind. But then his intellect cut in. Reason, lovely, lovely reason, told him, in all its wisdom, that wherever he was it was preferable to where he had been, preferable, dear god, yes, to the horror of sucking seawater into his lungs.
“The Proof of Bravery,” by David Milstein
I saw my men, who had been the cream of the III Corps, gladly charge well-fed, well-shod Cossacks with nothing but the bayonet and stock of the musket frozen in their hands, barefoot and starving. I admired them for their courage. I envied it. Because I had lost what I most cared for: the calculus of risk, and in its disregard, of bravery. That month of frimaire, I learned that nothing could end my life. I was no longer human.
Something moves at the end of the corridor. I raise the gun and stop when I see the small figure, the same soft wings but smaller; coiled serpent hair tight about the head. Little more than a girl. The creature’s offspring. What she was protecting.
My voice sounds thin and choked when I speak. “Let the soldiers choose for themselves,” I say. “Let those who wish to flee leave now, in good faith. I will not have them stay to be murdered for a cause they cannot support. But let food and bandages be stockpiled through the day, and close the gates”–I almost say, at nightfall, but it is always night now– “before midnight. We will hold my father’s fortress until the last.”