The Moreva of Astoreth
By: Roxanne Bland
About the Book:
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 the priestess, scientist, and healer Moreva Tehi, the spoiled, headstrong granddaughter of a powerful deity who is banished for a year to a volatile far 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.
Learning to read was a revelation. Words fascinated me. Whole new worlds opened up, and since my parents forbade nothing, I read everything. Some of it I didn’t quite understand, but I didn’t mind. I read it anyway. I even read the dictionary. When I was a little older, I was big on mysteries–English cozy mysteries, that is, Agatha Christie, were my favorites. Then I graduated to horror. Whenever a new book came out by Stephen King, Peter Straub or Dean Koontz, I was first in line. I was reading a little science fiction at this time–Robert Heinlein and authors like him–but I really didn’t get into it until I was in college. The same with fantasy. I really got into high fantasy–Lord of the Rings style–in college.
During this time I was still making up stories, but not writing them down. They were private. Besides, I thought my family and friends would laugh at me. In fact, the only story I recall writing was one that won a contest when I was in elementary school.
So anyway, life goes on. I went to law school. After I graduated and entered the workforce, I finally started writing down my stories. I wrote a bit here and there, short stories that never saw the light of day (which was probably a good thing). Then I fell ill. I had the flu for a month. Bored out of my skull, I started writing a piece of fan fiction, though I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time. I showed it to a friend of mine who suggested I finish the story.
Well, that piece of fan fiction fell by the wayside, but in its place came a manuscript that would eventually become my first book, The Underground. I absolutely adored writing it. I absolutely adore writing, period. Slipping into that alternate reality for hours on end, there was a time in my life when it was called daydreaming and I got into trouble for it. Now it’s legitimate. And that’s the best part of all.
Temple services and monitoring the beacon, I had nothing to do until the next
supply flight brought my new lab equipment. Hyme tried his best to keep me
busy, but there wasn’t enough work for the two of us. I studied the pictures in
the medicinal herb manuals he brought to me but tired of it after a day or so
since I couldn’t read the text. I was so bored I even walked over to the small
factory Eresh had pointed out and watched the village men and women make cloth.
after breakfast, while prowling through Hyme’s stock in the lab, I noticed he
was low on masich berries. He’d told me the masich bush blooms only during the
winter and the berries appear late in the season. Though winter’s cold still
lingered in the springtime air, the weather was definitely turning. If Hyme
wanted to replenish his stock, he’d better do it soon before the berries
rotted. “Hyme, you need more masich berries. Want to go out and get some?”
now, Tehi. I have to fill these orders before lunch.”
I sat in my swivel chair and spun it a few times. “This is ridiculous,” I
muttered. “I’ve got to do something.” I spied Hyme’s collection bag in the
corner by the door. I walked over to it, picked it up and peered inside. The
cutters were lying at its bottom. I decided to get the berries myself. The
village rule always in pairs, one with a gun when in the woods outside the village gates ran through my head but I
dismissed it. It’s not far. And I’ll be back before
anyone misses me. I grimaced a little. If
they miss me at all. Picking up the bag, I slipped out the door.
hurried to Mjor’s rear gates. As I’d predicted, the villagers ignored me. I
sauntered through the open doors and then I was on my way.
forty šīzu or so along the paved road leading out of the village then stepped
off onto the dirt path that led into the forest. I was a little nervous heading
into the woods alone, but Hyme and I had been out here before to gather masich
berries and I knew exactly where the stand of bushes was. I turned right at the
path’s first fork, bypassed the second, and turned right again at the third.
Walking along, I noticed the twin suns had warmed the air more than I would
have thought. In my winter uniform, I only felt a little chilly rather than
cold. My lips tightened and I quickened my step. What berries were left might
have already rotted on the bush.
was filled with the sounds of life awakening after a long winter’s sleep. I
smiled a little. It’s beautiful out here. Kherah was a desert, its water provided by diverting the Den, a wide,
deep river to the east of Uruk. Because of that, we had lavish gardens planted
with exotic flowers and stands of qal, water-loving trees with delicate, willowy
trunks, and long pointed red leaves. But it was nothing like this.
on the trees and bushes may not have budded yet, but after walking through the
hologram with Morevi Reng, I knew the wild, lush foliage that would appear in
the marun to come. Soon it would be hard to believe that a good-sized village
lay just a bit more than twelve nindan away.
I heard little creatures scuttling in the underbrush and every so often saw a
striped mouse cross my path. Birds sang in the trees. Just
around the bend now. And there they were, the masich bushes looking
like big, fat balls with their shiny, dark blue leaves. I stepped off the path
and forged my way through the underbrush, pushing skeletal branches out of my
way. I reached the stand of bushes and peered at them. I was just in time. In
less than seven or eight days, the bushes would have gone dormant. Humming a
tune from childhood, I fished for the cutter, found it, and started clipping
twigs sporting the best-looking orange berries. I dropped these into the bag.
an hour, the bag was half full. I wanted to get more, but the rest of the
berries I saw had started to dimple, a sure sign of rot, Hyme had told me. I
smiled, thinking about the happy reception I’d get on returning with a bag even
half full of berries. I placed the cutter in the bag and turned to leave.
way back through the underbrush. I’d just reached the path when I heard
something crashing through the forest. Whatever it was, it was a lot bigger
than a mouse. Then the crashing sounds ceased.
and looked around but couldn’t see anything. Curious and uneasy, I stepped onto
the packed dirt. I froze. Standing on the path between the village and me was a
great, shaggy beast. A curved horn grew out of its snout. It had feet the size
of dinner plates ringed by wicked-looking claws. And it was staring at me.
stood on its hind legs and then charged.
crawl. I screamed, a long, drawn-out sound, hurled my bag into the underbrush
and ran. Even though I had the speed of the Devi, I sensed it gaining on me. I
imagined its hot breath on my neck. Unless I did something and fast, I wasn’t
going to make it out of the forest alive.
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