First fiction highlight of the year – something I hope will become a running feature – Aliette de Bodard‘s In the Age of Iron and Ashes over at Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
They ran the girl down, in the grey light of dawn: a ring of copper-mailed horsemen, racing after her until her exhaustion finally felled her.Yudhyana sat on his horse, shivering in the cold morning air, and thought of home—of the narrow, spice-filled streets of Rasamuri, and of his daughters shrieking with delight as he raced them in the courtyard. Anything to prevent him from focusing on what was happening.Afterwards, they tied the girl’s unconscious body to the saddle of a white mare. Pakshman, Yudhyana’s second-in-command, nodded at him, waiting for orders.“Back to the city,” Yudhyana said. His gaze was on the plains, sloping down to the river Kuni—and the cloud of dust that marked the advance of the Sharwah army. He said, “She didn’t have time to reach them.”Pakshman’s face was grim. “No,” he said. “The city is still safe.”Yudhyana thought of a thousand thousand chariots, of gold-harnessed elephants, of a myriad archers, all waiting to topple Rasamuri’s walls. Yes, he thought. Safe. But for how long? – read the rest of the story.