“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,
The change of subject confused me. “What do you mean, Most Holy
“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
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.
I did not want my grandmother to know what was in my hearts, so I chose
my words carefully. “Most Holy One, I treat Your hakoi the way I do
because it is the hierarchy of life as the Devi created it. You taught
us the Great Pantheon of twelve Devi is Supreme. The lesser Devi are
beneath You, the morevs are beneath the lesser gods, and Your hakoi are
beneath the morevs. Beneath the hakoi are the plants and animals of
Peris. But sometimes Your hakoi forget their place and must be
reminded.” I held my breath, praying she wouldn’t probe me again.
Astoreth didn’t answer at first. “A pretty explanation, Moreva. But
My hakoi know their place. It is you who do not know yours. You may be
more Devi than morev, but you are still morev, born of hakoi blood. You
are not too good to minister to the hakoi’s needs, and you are
certainly not too good to celebrate Ohra with them.”
I swallowed. “Yes, Most Holy One.”
“Look at me, Moreva.”
I raised my head. My grandmother’s expression was fierce.
“And that is why you let the time get away from you, as you say. You,
Moreva Tehi, an acolyte of Love, are a bigot. That is why you did not
want to share your body with My hakoi.” She leaned forward. “I have
overlooked many of your transgressions while in My service, but I cannot
overlook your bigotry or your missing Ohra. I will not execute you
because you are too dear to My heart. The stewardship for Astoreth-69 in
the Syren Perritory ends this marun on eighth day. You will take the
My hearts froze. This was my punishment? Getting exiled to Syren? From
what I’d heard from morevs serving in Astoreth’s other Temples, the
Syren Perritory in Peris’s far northern hemisphere was the worst place
in the world to steward a landing beacon. Cold and dark, with dense
woods full of wild animals, the Syren was no place for me. My place was
Kherah, a sunny desert south of the planet’s equator, where the fauna
were kept in special habitats for learning and entertainment. As for the
Syrenese, they were the product of one of the Devi’s earliest and
failed experimental breeding programs, and were as untamed as the
perritory in which they lived.
But I knew better than to protest. Astoreth’s word was law, and it had
just come down on my head. “Yes, Most Holy One,” I said, my voice
“Mehmed will come to your rooms after lunch tomorrow so you can be
fitted for your uniform.”
“My uniform, Most Holy One? I will not be taking my clothes?”
“No. As overseer of the landing beacon, you are the liaison between
the Mjor village as well as the commander of the garrison. Your
subordinate, Kepten Yose, will report to you once a marun, and you are
to relay the garrison’s needs to Laerd Teger, the Mjoran village
“Yes, Most Holy One.”
“I will make allowance for your healer’s kit and a portable
laboratory, but you are not to take your work on red fever. I’m sure
you have other projects you can work on while you are there.”
“No, Moreva. It is too dangerous.”
“I can take precautions—”
“No. That is my final word.” Astoreth leaned back in Her chair. Her
eyes narrowed. “One more thing. You will be the only morev in Mjor,
but that will not prevent you from observing Ohra. And you will do so
with the garrison stationed there. Go now.”
I stood on shaky legs, bowed, and backed out of the Great Hall. Once in
the corridor, I turned and fled to my quarters. I threw myself on the
bed and sobbed. It was bad enough to be exiled to the Syren Perritory,
but Ohra with the garrison? Only the hakoi served in Astoreth’s
military. I felt dirty already. And not allowing me to work on my red
fever project was punishment in itself.
A few minutes later I felt a hand on my shoulder. “Tehi, what’s
wrong?” a worried voice said. It was Moreva Jaleta, one of my
friendlier morev sisters.
“I-I’m being sent to the Syren Perritory to steward Astoreth-69,”
Jaleta sat on the bed. “But why?”
I sat up. “I missed the last Ohra and n-now Astoreth is punishing
Jaleta gave me an unsympathetic look. “You’re lucky she didn’t
have your head. Be thankful you’re Her favorite.”
I sniffed but said nothing.
Jaleta patted me on the shoulder. “It won’t be so bad, Tehi. The
year will be over before you know it. Come on, it’s time to eat.”
Excerpted from "The Moreva of Astoreth" by Roxanne Bland. Copyright © 2015 by Roxanne Bland. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.