Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Children of the Stone Gods by Cora Buhlert

Release date: October 6, 2015
Subgenre: Planetary romance, short science fiction collection

About Children of the Stone Gods


This is a collection of seven tales on the borderline of science fiction and fantasy. Seven stories of lost worlds, where carcasses of crashed spaceships litter the landscape and science and technology have long turned into myth and legend.

Enter a world of sacrifices and stone gods, where people live in the hulls of the great space arks that brought their ancestors to this planet, where four-armed assassins ply their trade and wandering priests warn of great cataclysms, where gods lie sleeping inside mountains and strange lights shine in the sky by night.

This is a collection of seven short science fiction tales of 12000 words or approximately 40 print pages altogether.



Sacrifice to the Kitayu

It was near the time of returning and the people of Volitan were preparing this solar cycle’s sacrifice.
Like every cycle, the sacrifice was chosen from the daughters of Volitan. One lunar cycle before the returning, all women of the colony who were of childbearing age and not yet mated were called together in the Great Hall to select this cycle’s sacrifice.
Many came willingly, for it was considered a great honour to be chosen as an offering to the Kitayu on their annual return. After all, only the best and brightest, the purest and the most beautiful of all the daughters of Volitan were considered worthy of becoming an offering of peace and tribute to the Kitayu.
Others had to be forced. They were pulled out of the cellars and closets and outhouses where they’d been hiding and led into the Great Hall in restraints. Some girls also tried to escape the selection by getting mated very quickly.
Still, in the end they all came, willingly or not. All the unmated women and girls of childbearing age of the whole colony gathered together in one place, so that the sacrifice could be chosen.
The selection process was rigorous. First, all of the young women were subjected to a thorough physical examination to determine whether they were healthy and thus fit to be sacrificed. The girls’ virginity was also inspected to prove that the chosen sacrifice was pure and worthy.
Girls found impure escaped the selection process and were led away from the Great Hall in shackles, lest they contaminate its sacred atmosphere with their impurity. They were taken to the gaol and eventually condemned to lifelong servitude in the houses of lust for daring to defy Volitan’s customs and laws.
Next, those girls found to be healthy and pure enough were subjected to a battery of scans, puzzles and tests to determine the quality of their intellects and their very minds. Great machines bestowed by the Kitayu themselves compiled results and evaluated the tests and in the end, an algorithm honed by centuries of experience selected this cycle’s sacrifice, the best and noblest and worthiest young woman Volitan had to offer.
In the end, the great machine spat out a single name, the name of the chosen maiden, printed on a sealed piece of paper. The seal could only be broken by the Pontifex of Volitan, governor and high priest combined into one.
Before the name was read out, all doors of the Great Hall were locked and barred. For in the past, it had sometimes happened that the chosen maiden attempted to escape and had to be chased down. So trusted guards were placed at all exits, making sure that the chosen one could not slip away.
A hush fell over the assembled women and girls, as the Pontifex stepped onto the stage, attired in his splendid red robes of office, to break the seal and read out the name of the chosen one. And many a young woman breathed out a clandestine sigh of relief, when the name was read out and it was not her own. Though a handful of girls — those who had volunteered for the honour — could barely hide their disappointment.
Though everybody present agreed that the great computers had chosen wisely, for this cycle’s sacrifice, the beautiful Hafzira, was a most worthy tribute. Tall and statuesque, intelligent and of sterling character, with red hair, gilded skin and brilliant green eyes — yes, none could imagine a more worthy candidate than Hafzira. And if Hafzira herself had harboured a smattering of hope in her well-formed bosom that she might be spared and another chosen, then she hid it well. As a true daughter of Volitan, she knew where her duty lay.
Once the selection was made, the chosen maiden was whisked away by the guards at once, to prepare herself for the sacrifice in seclusion and solitude. She would spend the remainder of the lunar cycle in quiet study and contemplation to familiarise herself with the sacred texts handed down by the Kitayu themselves.
And so Hafzira was led to the chamber of seclusion. She was given new garments, the plain white robes of the chosen sacrifice, and handed the sacred texts, thick dusty tomes printed on yellowed paper. Then the door was locked behind her and Hafzira was left alone. Only now did she break down, sobbing bitter tears into her plain white robe.

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About Cora Buhlert:

Cora Buhlert was born and bred in North Germany, where she still lives today – after time spent in London, Singapore, Rotterdam and Mississippi. Cora holds an MA degree in English from the University of Bremen and is currently working towards her PhD. Cora has been writing since she was a teenager, and has published stories, articles and poetry in various international magazines. When she is not writing, she works as a translator and teacher.

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