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!”
Layla bowed and sheathed her sword. She ran a hand over her stubbly head and wondered idly how it would feel to have long hair like the women outside the Lodge of God.
As if he sensed her thoughts, Shaykh Saif’s smile faded. “Almighty
God willing, someday perhaps your soul will be as disciplined as your sword arm!” There was a reprimand in his eyes as well as his words.
Layla fingered the red silk scarf wound around her blue scabbard, the only difference between her garments and her teacher’s. It was the cause of the discord that was tearing the Lodge of God apart.
She said nothing.
About the Author
Saladin Ahmed was born in Detroit. His debut novel Throne of the Crescent Moon, praised by George RR Martin as “a rollicking swashbuckler,” received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal, and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and the Nebula Award for Best Novel. Throne of the Crescent Moon won the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and has been translated into a half-dozen foreign languages.
Saladin’s poems and short stories, nominated for numerous awards, have appeared in publications ranging from Slate to Callaloo to BuzzFeed, and have been widely anthologized and translated. His essays on politics, geek culture, and Muslim American issues have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and Salon. He lives near Detroit, and is currently writing Black Bolt for Marvel Comics.