Though both the titular city and the conflict had been mentioned several times previously, this story was the first in the DWU to take place during the Battle of Stalingrad. Rather surprisingly, it is also the only DWU story set on the Eastern Front of World War II to feature an active alien threat.
The novella came bundled with the short story, The One Place.
Looking at her timeline, Erimem is intrigued by evidence that at some point in her life, she visits the Nazi-besieged city of Stalingrad in 1942. Against the advice of her friends, Erimem travels back through time to discover what happened in Russia during those terrible times in the war.
With German forces relentlessly bombarding the city, the people are freezing and starving... and worse, there are stories of a demon or a beast, stalking the ruined streets of Stalingrad, devouring anyone it meets.
2015: some five weeks after their experiences in Actium in ancient Greece, Erimem discovers that she was present in Stalingrad in 1942 and becomes determined to visit the period. Andy and Ibrahim are both horrified at the thought of visiting Stalingrad at such an infamous period of its history but they aren't able to convince Erimem otherwise. Andy agrees to go with her.
1942: in the ravaged city, Erimem and Andy escape a bombardment and assist a civilian, Isabella Zemanova, who is searching for precious firewood. In Isabella's flat, the time travellers are warned about a demon which Isabella's husband, Lev, told her is stalking the city. Erimem and Andy investigate and eventually encounter one of the Drofen Horde.
At the London University of History and Antiquity, Orla Wilton introduced Ibrahim to his new assistant, Trina Barton. Outside, Ibrahim encounters Tom Niven, who seems very distant. Knowing something is wrong, Ibrahim takes Tom to Helena. Helena determines Tom is still suffering from guilt over the death of his girlfriend, Anna Whitaker, in Greece.
Back in Stalingrad, the Drofen is driven off by Russian soldiers under Yuri Kurkov, a family friend of the Zemanovas. To learn more, Erimem sends Andy back to 2015 to retrieve information from the computer. As Andy informs Ibrahim and Helena about what has been happening, Tom wanders into the room and discovers their secret set-up. When Andy prepares to travel back to Stalingrad, Tom offers to come with her, as a way of confronting his guilt. Andy still harbours a dislike towards Tom, as he previously humiliated her girlfriend Sasha, but she recognises that he in genuinely trying to cope with his struggle and accepts.
When Andy gives Erimem the information she was looking for, the latter hatches a plan: she wants to play dead so that the Drofen will take her to their ship. Nobody else likes the plan but given the lack of alternatives, they all acquiesce. She travels out of the city centre with Yuri's men. They run into German soldiers, who kill Piotr and Yusef. The Germans are soon overpowered and killed but Erimem realises their situation in this battle was just as desperate as that of the Russians.
Erimem enacts her plan and plays dead in the snowy streets and is carried off by one of the Drofen. In the ship, she is frustrated to see Isabella, who was captured while looking for Lev. Erimem soon gains an audience with the Horde Prime and reminds him that the galactic laws his people are subject to mean they may only live off the dead. The fact that they have been kidnapping and killing living people contravenes those laws. The Horde Prime is aware of this but dismisses the protestations. After he refuses to leave Earth peacefully, Erimem signals to Yuri to begin bombarding the ship, which provokes a larger German bombardment on the same area.
As Erimem's friends and allies enter the ship to rescue them, the party enters a room in which four humans have been ripped open by the Drofen but left alive to keep the meet fresh. One of them is Lev Zemanova, who urges Isabella to flee Stalingrad with their two sons. Isabella kills the four men out of mercy and escapes the ship before the bombardment ruptures the engines, blowing it apart.
Despite Tom knowing that the Russians eventually break the siege of the city and capture the German invaders, Isabella makes good her promise to flee. Erimem gives her a detailed route to follow. Over many weeks, it takes Isabella to Murmansk, where William Dunn of the Royal Navy helps her and her sons escape to Britain. Having escaped both the war and Joseph Stalin's tyrannical regime, Isabella settles down into married life with William.
Many decades later, Isabella meets Erimem again and tells her her story, despite Erimem not recognising her. She invited Erimem and her friends to her ninty-fifth birthday. By hearing the old woman's story, Erimem learns that at some point, she travelled to Stalingrad in 1942, and she becomes determined to visit the period so that she can help Isabella in those dark days.
- Ibrahim Hadmani
- Andy Hansen
- Tom Niven
- Isabella Zemanova
- Orla Wilton
- Trina Barton
- Yuri Kurkov
- Lev Zemanova
- William Dunn
- Alexei Zemanova
- Andy says if Mary Poppins tried flying in the current windy weather, she would end up in Norway.
- Andy compares Erimem living in a cupboard at Helena and Ibrahim's house to Harry Potter living in a cupboard under the stairs.
- Andy describes Erimem as having a Mona Lisa smile.
- Erimem jokes about using Google.
- Isabella mentions Jules Verne and H. G. Wells.
- Isabella and her sons passed through Leningrad.
- Erimem gives cup-a-soup to Isabella.
- This story is told from the first person POV, but it alternates between Isabella, Ibrahim, Andy, Erimem, and Tom.
- Ibrahim says Erimem brought up going to Stalingrad five weeks after they got back from Actium. (PROSE: The Last Pharaoh)
- Erimem uses her gladius sword. (PROSE: The Last Pharaoh)
- Erimem recounts being taught by Antranak. (AUDIO: The Eye of the Scorpion, PROSE: The Coming of the Queen)