أداوت وتكنولوجيا

Sci-Fi Fantasy Book Excerpt by Meredith Mooring

Redsight is described as a heretical exploration of religion and power, with a sapphic science fantasy story featuring a partially sighted heroine based on the author’s own experiences. Meredith Mooring makes her fantasy debut with this exciting, swashbuckling new novel.

Redsight follows a blind priestess who powers warships for the galactic military by manipulating spacetime. When the captain of her ship is murdered by a pirate with a dark past, she must choose between a painful life of service or a chance at freedom with the galaxy’s most wanted criminal.

Check out an exclusive look at the first chapter after this incredible cover reveal. The illustration is by Alyssa Winans, and the design is by Sam Gretton.

Image: Rebellion Publishing | l Alyssa Winans

Chapter One: Korinna

The Church was empty except for the red, whispering bodies.

As she knelt on the floor, Korinna’s veil stuck to the red dust she wore over her eyes. Sticky from the heat of so many candles, plumes of incense thickened the air. Her knees bruised. The marble floor bit into them with the poison of a viper. She felt it all and pulled each sensation deep into her heart.

The simulacrum held a handful of other clerics at this time in the ship’s day cycle, their heads bent in respect. Meditating on Vermicula’s perfection every day wasn’t required, but this was the one place on the Navitas where Korinna could find some damn peace and quiet.

She huffed her veil out of her face and froze.

Among the blurred splotches of red that were the other clerics, there was a stranger. A woman stood by Vermicula’s altar with the heat of a candle in her hand. The goddess’ tomb rested on a low platform off the ground, covered with a recumbent effigy of her likeness.

The dark-haired woman placed the candle in Vermicula’s cupped hands and the flame jumped like it had been doused in accelerant.

Despite her limited vision, Korinna saw the woman’s face more clearly than she had ever seen anything, her eyes taking in each detail for the first time. Normally, Korinna saw in blurs and smudges. She relied on tactus, the tactile energy of all things, to feel the world around her instead.

She had never seen a face before.

Transfixed, she stood up, her aches and pains forgotten. Seeing the shine of the woman’s black hair, the rosy tint to her fair skin from the heat of the candles, and the warmth of her black eyes struck her speechless.

The woman breezed out of the simulacrum, her skirts hissing over the marble.

Korinna’s mouth hung open. The other clerics were still kneeling at the altar or bent over in prayer in the pews.

Wandering out of the heavy atmosphere of the sacred space, she pulled the red gossamer off her head and sucked down the cool air of the ship. A class of novices, mostly children half Korinna’s height, trudged down the hallway under the supervision of a pinched priestess. The unsworn adepts eased past her with quiet steps, shrinking before the doors to the simulacrum.

A few of the students would become clerics soon if they survived, but many of them wouldn’t.

Years ago, Korinna had been one of them. Born and raised on the Navitas, she’d spent twenty years in the Order of Vermicula without setting foot on land. She was in her final year as a cleric, an initiated member of her Order, but without the duties or responsibilities of the priests and priestesses.

“Class sizes are getting a bit ridiculous, aren’t they?”

Therese appeared at her elbow along with two other clerics from Korinna’s cohort.

“For now.”

Did she say that out loud? Maybe Korinna had inhaled too much incense, but her brain felt like it was operating at half its normal capacity.

“Excuse us,” Therese said. “You’re standing in the way.”

“Sorry—There’s—I have to go.”

The other women whispered as they filed into the simulacrum together. Thank the Ember she’d finished her meditation already. There would be no peace for the clerics forced to share the simulacrum with Therese and her friends.

She’d been one of those friends once, before she swore herself to the Order. Korinna and Therese would have been only thirteen then, barely older than the class of girls she’d just passed. Before the night when the others disappeared.

Until they pledged their lives to Vermicula, all adepts were treated more or less the same. As children, they studied languages, geography, mapmaking, and tactology, the science of tactile energy. At age thirteen, novices breathed in incense from Vermicula’s altar and they were forever bound to her Order.

Once Korinna and the survivors joined the Order, nothing was the same.

Clerics still had lessons, but they were separated according to ability. The largest class in her cohort had ten women and three men. That was the class Therese was part of, the class Korinna had expected to be placed in.

Now she didn’t have a class. She had remedial lessons by herself with Mistress Vega, an octogenarian priestess who had ruled as High Priestess of the Order in her day, before yielding the status to Mistress Renatia.

After spending so much time away from her cohort, Korinna was an outsider. Not to mention she usually lacked for stimulating company, as Mistress Vega didn’t entertain casual talk. In the mornings, they spent most of their time drawing Korinna’s blood out of her arm and into obsidian vials. Mistress Vega would fall asleep during their academic lessons in the afternoon. Korinna didn’t have the heart to wake her, and used the time to read the romance stories Vega kept on the tallest shelf in her office, even if they were mostly about men.

Without any lessons between now and dinner, Korinna was cut loose, a frayed wire fallen out of its braid. She looked around for the dark-haired woman again, but saw only the usual mass of blurred shapes moving through the corridor. Then she felt for her electric communicator and read the ten missed notifications with her fingers.

“Oh, shit,” she whispered, running down the crowded hall to one of the lifts that would take her to the upper levels of the Navitas.

It took several minutes to reach the High Priestess’ office. She arrived panting and braced her hands against her thighs. Renatia’s assistant, Pegarda, stood before her. Between gasps of air, Korinna managed, “I’m sorry, isn’t there still time to meet—”

Absolutely not,” said Pegarda. “Your meeting with the High Priestess requires an hour of time. It must be rescheduled.”

There were still thirty minutes left. Korinna didn’t understand why they couldn’t have the meeting now, but this was the Order. There were rules, and traditions, and respect that must be observed.

“The High Priestess has a meeting with the Red Friar of the Ardus Sector about the candle supplier that cannot be pushed back. You’ll receive another appointment.”

Korinna scuttled out of the office like she’d been swatted with a rolled-up prayer book. Had Pegarda always been such a piece of work? If Korinna hadn’t been so distracted by the woman with the beautiful face in the simulacrum, she would have been on time. She couldn’t stop thinking about her. She didn’t know people could look that way, that someone’s eyes could pin you where you stood without them moving or speaking a word.

With her meeting over before it began, she made her way to the dining hall. Its high ceilings echoed with the sound of voices and the free embers of tactus that came from having so many Redseers in one place. Korinna could feel the waves of tactus reverberating off the marble surfaces and the glass that revealed open space outside the ship.

She loved being in the dining hall beneath the expanse of infinite black. And, while she couldn’t see the individual stars in that dark world overhead, their warmth beamed down like an array of altar candles.

A flurry of clerics buzzed around a woman in the cohort above hers. Korinna stopped at the edge of the circle.

“Meifeng got a posting,” one of the younger ones explained.

Everyone was well informed except for Korinna. Being at the bottom of her cohort didn’t lend her many friends. She waited until the group of younger students left before congratulating Meifeng in person.

“I heard you got a posting. You must be excited.”

Meifeng shrugged. “I’m going to the Molaris Sector. A trade vessel owned by an old family.”

A position as a tactile navigator on a trade vessel was prestigious. Trade vessels were prioritized over personal ships of any size, and only the most skilled Redseers were assigned to them. The only postings requiring more skill were warships.

Korinna took a seat across from Meifeng. “What’s wrong? Aren’t you happy?”

“Of course I am. But… ” Meifeng let out a breath.

“It’s okay, you can say what you mean.”

“You’ll understand when you get a posting. It’s not easy. They don’t—You aren’t given a choice.” Meifeng’s voice wobbled.

Korinna wasn’t going to spend her life off the ship, but she held her tongue.

“But you’ll make a fantastic navigator.”

A watery laugh. “For now.”

She took Meifeng’s hand and squeezed it. It wasn’t discussed often, but Korinna had heard stories about navigators who only lived for a year after receiving their assignments. Redsight was too demanding on them long-term, but sacrifice was expected of them as priests and priestesses.

The older woman squeezed back. “What am I doing? I’m sorry about that. It’s hard keeping this in when everyone’s so happy for me.”

“You don’t have to apologize.”

“I’d better go.” Meifeng rose to leave. “But I hope I’ll see you around once you get off the Navitas too.”

“I’m not sure that’s going to happen, but thank you.”

“You never know. It seems like everyone’s getting a posting these days.” Her footsteps faded as she strode off.

Korinna hadn’t heard about anyone else being sent off the Navitas, but, then again, she didn’t get to hear any of the interesting gossip in her lessons with Mistress Vega.

She rose and went to grab a nutrient drink with an extra dose of stimulant paste so she could eat while she worked in the library. The hour she’d set aside for her appointment with the High Priestess was usually spent studying, and she needed to make up the work now or Vega would call her a waste of Vermicula’s radiance when she arrived empty-handed for her lesson tomorrow.

She’d had the same study carrel there for years, where she kept her papers, slate, stylus, and tactile books when she wasn’t in the library or at lessons. But she’d spent all day alone.

After moving her belongings to one of the big communal tables, Korinna began writing her essay on the impact of star density on homeomorphism. With a deft hand gripping her metal-tipped stylus, she imprinted carefully placed raised dots into the thick paper framed on her slate.

All descendants of Vermicula were born with Redsight. It restricted their vision while allowing them to manipulate tactus, and so Korinna had learned to read and write through tactile markers. In the Galactic Imperium her condition was called blindness, but on the Navitas it was how everyone lived.

She worked until the essay was nearly finished. The stimulant paste had cleared her head of whatever fumes she’d ingested in the simulacrum, thank the Ember.

Aware as she was, Korinna didn’t miss the commotion when a group of clerics entered the library. They were from her cohort, and Therese was at the back of the herd.

They ambled from one table to another before pausing by Korinna’s workspace.

“Let’s not sit there,” one of the men said.

His innocuous words made his friends laugh into their hands, sharing some inside joke at her expense. Korinna gritted her teeth, wondering if this was another part of her Pegarda origin story, if this was how she would end up as a bitter secretary wielding influence over the tyrants from her youth while those more talented in her cohort took positions across the stars.

Before Korinna could snap her stylus in half she felt a smooth brush along the back of her neck, silky and powerful. She straightened in her chair and whipped around, but there was no one behind her. Apart from two bored nuns grading papers by the heating unit, she was alone.

That couldn’t be right. She felt around until she caught a thread of sensation, an echo left in the wake of powerful energy. It felt familiar. She’d felt the same sensation earlier today in the simulacrum.

Korinna darted out of her chair, nearly tripping over the hem of her robe. Arms outstretched, she searched for that thread and pulled until the weave of matter around it buckled, showing her the way.

Someone was walking through the library and they didn’t want to be detected.

It was complex work: the kind of energy transfer that required great natural ability. Reforming matter to conceal a moving being was so difficult Korinna had only read about it in the histories of the Enlightened Ones, Vermicula’s early descendants.

Softening her footsteps, she followed the thread through the stacks of tactile books. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d needed anything from the shelves in these obscure sections of the library.

A heavy door creaked open and she froze in her tracks. For the second time in her life, Korinna saw the clear features of a face. That face. The beautiful, dark-haired woman from the simulacrum.

And here she was again. In some part of the library Korinna knew she must’ve visited before. But now, standing before this radiant figure, with every feature visible in minute detail, everything else around her faded away.

All she could see was her.

Korinna darted for the open door, but when she reached it, the woman was gone.

Stepping inside, she teetered on her feet like she was bracing against a wind. The crest of tactile energy from the volumes contained in this room subsumed her in a riptide of tactus. There were texts that held the imprint of other worlds, that contained traces of stars and cosmic electromagnetism. She ran her hands over the spines of some of the titles. Not all of the volumes were written in tactile script—some of them were smooth. Written in print.

It struck her for the first time that there was a large universe outside the Navitas that lived differently, that read books differently, that saw faces every day and found the experience unremarkable.

Who was the woman from the simulacrum? How had she gotten into this room, deep in the warrens of the Order’s library, and left without anyone noticing her? How had she concealed her presence so efficiently?

“Who let you in here?”

Korinna spun around as a claw-like hand clamped around her forearm. So consumed by her thoughts, she hadn’t noticed anyone approach. She’d been reading one of the spines—Grimoires of the Red Vestals—when she was jerked out of the room like a child being dragged by the ear.

“Let me go!”

Thrashing in protest against the nun’s unbreakable grip, Korinna stomped down on her foot with all her force. The woman yelped, withdrawing with a curse.

“Wicked girl! Of course it was you I found running your hands all over those awful books! This room is off-limits to clerics. There’s nothing in there that will make you a stronger Redseer.” Her tone sharpened. “That door was blessed by the High Priestess herself, so tell me how you got inside.”

Korinna took a moment to straighten her robes. “Someone left the door open. I didn’t know what the room was, so I went inside.”

The nun asked her to repeat herself. When she held her point and insisted she didn’t know the room existed until the door was left open, the nun relented.

“You could have died standing in there. You’re lucky I found you. Some of those books have an appetite, and you have less tactus to spare than the rest.” The nun paused as if contemplating a punishment. “Off to bed with you. If I ever catch you in that room again, I swear by the Ember I’ll string you up over Vermicula’s tomb for the next blood offering.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Korinna gathered her slate and a few of her papers before leaving. She’d have to punch out the rest of her essay in bed before falling asleep.

Excerpt from Redsight by Meredith Mooring reprinted by permission of Rebellion Publishing.

Meredith Mooring’s Redsight will be released February 29, 2024 in the U.S. and March 2, 2024 in the UK.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

اترك تعليقاً

لن يتم نشر عنوان بريدك الإلكتروني. الحقول الإلزامية مشار إليها بـ *

زر الذهاب إلى الأعلى