“So it was true, then.” Astoreth spoke in that calm, quiet manner that meant She was enraged.
Head bowed, I knelt before Her golden throne in the Temple’s Great Hall. Though the Hall was air-conditioned, I was sweating inside my uniform. “Yes, Most Holy One.”
“Are you pregnant?”
“No, Most Holy One. I took…precautions.”
“At least there is that.” She said nothing for a few minutes. “Give me one reason why I should not execute you.”
“There is no reason, Most Holy One. I broke my vows. And I know not even being Your granddaughter will save me. But before You pronounce sentence, I would bargain with You.”
“Bargain? With Me?”
“Yes, Most Holy One. My bargain is this. My life in exchange for the cure for red fever.”
“You defied Me and took your research to Mjor, anyway? I demand you give me the formula. Now. Then we will see about sparing your life.”
“I don’t remember it, Most Holy One.”
I could almost see my grandmother’s jaw drop. “Surely you wrote down the formula.”
“Yes, Most Holy One. But I hid it somewhere in Mjor. I don’t remember where.”
A wave of psi power hit me so hard it knocked me off my knees. I cried out at the pain ripping through my head and hearts. I writhed on the black and gold tiled floor. As quickly as the pain had come, it was gone. I struggled to my knees. My body felt like it was on fire. I knelt in the same position as I was before, but now I couldn’t lift my head even if I’d wanted.
“Very clever, Moreva. You made a drug that erased your memory. But you also made an antidote.”
“Yes, Most Holy One.” I tried not to pant.
“Then here is My bargain. You will go to Mjor, take your drug and get the formula for Me. In return, I assure you a quick and painless death.”
I didn’t answer at first. My hearts beat faster. I took a deep breath. “No, Most Holy One. I do not accept Your bargain.”
“You refuse Me? You blaspheme! I will make you change your mind.”
“You would torture me then, Most Holy One. You may execute me, but can You really find it in Your heart to torture me?”
The Great Hall was silent. After an eternity, Astoreth spoke. “No.” Minutes passed before Astoreth spoke again. “What is to stop Me from executing you now, and then going to Mjor to look for the formula? It is Mine. I am perfectly within My rights.”
“The Laerd would never give his permission for You or Your troops to enter the village. If You did, the Protocol would be broken.”
“And if I do break it?”
“You would start a war, Most Holy One. And I doubt the other Gods in the Great Pantheon would help You.”
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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