"I could have you executed for this, Moreva Tehi,” Astoreth said. My Devi grandmother, the Goddess of Love, scowled at me from Her golden throne in the massive Great Hall of Her equally massive Temple.
Sitting on my heels, I bowed my head and stared at the black and gold polished floor, trying to ignore the trickle of sweat snaking its way down my spine. “Yes, Most Holy One.”
“You blaspheme by not celebrating Ohra, My holiest of rites. And this one was important—the worthiest of the hakoi, handpicked by Me, celebrated with us. ”
“I can only offer my most abject apologies, Most Holy One.”
“Your apologies are not accepted.”
“Yes, Most Holy One.”
“Where were you?”
“I was in the laboratory, working on a cure for red fever. Many hakoi died last winter—”
“I know that,” my grandmother snapped. “But why did you miss Ohra? Did you not hear the bells?”
“Yes, Most Holy One. I heard them. I was about to lay aside my work when I noticed an anomaly in one of my pareon solutions. It was odd, so I decided to investigate. What I found…I just lost track of time.”
“You lost track of time?” Astoreth repeated, sounding incredulous. “Do you expect Me to believe that?”
“Yes, Most Holy One. It is the truth.”
A moment later, my head and hearts started to throb. I knew why. My grandmother was probing me for signs I had lied. But She wouldn’t find any. There was no point in lying to Astoreth, and it was dangerous, too. Swaying under the onslaught from Her power, I endured the pain without making a sound. After what seemed like forever the throbbing subsided, leaving me feeling sick and dizzy.
“Very well,” She said. “I accept what you say is true, but I still do not accept your apology.”
“Yes, Most Holy One.” I tried not to pant.
A minute passed in uncomfortable silence. Uncomfortable for me, anyway. Another minute passed. And another. Just when I thought maybe She was finished with me, Astoreth spoke. “What do you have against the hakoi, Moreva?”
The change of subject confused me. “What do you mean, Most Holy One?”
“I’ve watched you, Moreva. You give them no respect. You heal them because you must, but you treat them little better than animals. Why is that?”
The trickle of sweat reached the small of my back and pooled there. “But my work—”
“Your work is a game between you and the red fever. It has nothing to do with My hakoi.”
I didn’t answer right away. In truth, I despised Her hakoi. They were docile enough—the Devi’s breeding program saw to that—but most were slow-witted, not unlike the pirsu the Temple raised for meat and hide. They stank of makira, the pungent cabbage that was their dietary staple. From what I’d seen traveling through Kherah to Astoreth’s and other Gods’ Temples, all the hakoi were stupid and smelly, and I wanted nothing to do with them.
Title: The Moreva of Astoreth
Author: Roxanne Bland
Genre: Science Fiction
In the world-building tradition of Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey and Ursula K. LeGuin, The Moreva of Astoreth is a blend of science fiction, romance, and adventure in a unique, richly imagined imperialistic society in which gods and science are indelibly intertwined. It is the story of priestess, scientist, and healer Moreva Tehi, the spoiled, headstrong granddaughter of a powerful goddess who is temporarily exiled from Temple life in her beloved desert home to a volatile far northern corner of the planet for neglecting to perform her sacred duty, only to venture into dangerous realms of banned experimentation, spiritual rebirth, and fervent, forbidden love.
Roxanne Bland grew up in Washington, D.C., where she discovered strange and wonderful new worlds through her local public library and bookstores. These and other life experiences have convinced her that reality is highly overrated. Ms. Bland lives in Rosedale, Maryland with her Great Dane, Daisy Mae.
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