There was almost no one left in the streets now. The last to leave were the city militia forces and army units. As the sunset gave way to night, darkness-cloaked foot soldiers marched past Niola.
One of the unit captains paused “Why are you still here?” he said. “Don’t wait too long, girl. We are the last division, and as we leave this city you will be all alone.” Niola nodded, and thanked him in a parched whisper.
Night came, and with it came silence.
And suddenly it hit her, the terror.
Niola was all alone. The monolithic city lay around her like a blanket of black wool; no light, no respite. The wind swept alone in the silence, slithering and reverberating against stone and thatch and mud clay brick and empty marble, whistling in the structures and making the tree leaves whisper and crinkle… If anyone else was left here it was only the most criminal-minded, the looters, the infirm, the mad…
Vera Nazarian is a two-time Nebula Award Finalist and a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She made her novelist debut with the critically acclaimed Dreams of the Compass Rose (set in the same ancient world universe as this story) in 2002, followed by epic fantasy Lords of Rainbow in 2003. Her novella, The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass, made the 2005 Locus Recommended Reading List. Her debut collection, Salt of the Air, contains the 2007 Nebula Award-nominated “The Story of Love.” Her recent work includes the 2008 Nebula Finalist novella, The Duke in His Castle, and Pride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy’s Dreadful Secret.
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