Judgment of Swords and Souls
by Saladin Ahmed
Layla bas Layla’s breath came raggedly and her blue silks were soaked with sweat, but she was pleased with her performance. Ten beheaded in threescore water-drops. She lowered her forked sword.
The clay-and-rag dummy skulls littered the packed-dirt training yard of the Lodge of God. Boulder-faced Shaykh Saif kicked one aside. He wore the same habit of silk blouse and breeches as she – he had been a member of the Order for thirty years longer than she — but even smiling, his craggy features somehow made the bright blue garments seem muted.
“Only seven-and-ten years old, and you’re better with the forked
sword than I was as a Dervish in my prime. And I was the best, God
forgive me my boasts!”