Ana doesn’t look forward to another wedding season with its blaring reminders that she’s a freak who will always be alone. Thanks to a couple of pesky recessive genes that show up every few generations, she’s gifted telepathically and marked from birth for a life of chastity and service as a Maid.
Ana is just one of the galaxy’s misfits that leave their homes in hopes of acceptance into the Alliance Academy. Unfortunately, the nearest Academy is located in Fraternity City, a space station orbiting the water world of Mir. Controlled by clones intent on creating a master race, Fraternity City, a place of shadows where few dare the radiation of the daylight hours, is rumored to be cursed. This story follows four cadets from distant worlds as they find their way in a city filled with pirates, rogues, scientists, and star eyed dreamers.
Can one Maid from Mir make a difference? Will secrets be revealed in time to keep a dark history from being repeated?
Targeted Age Group:: YA
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I have been writing unpublished short stories based in this fantasy universe for about ten years. The first was a Christmas story entitled “Kalendriels Song” that took place on earth. Another story, “The Children of Cain” follows the events on the Mir World around that some period of time. Both of these shorts are referenced as history in “Mir Maid”, which takes place 2700 later.
The real motivation to actually sit down and write a novel length work came with my grandmother’s death. I got to spend some time with her in the week or so before she died, hearing again the her stories of serving in the Women’s Army Corp during WWII. It was a life changing experience for her. She went from being an shy, awkward teen to a woman who would go on to found one of the first schools for training EEG technicians. Mir Maid is my attempt to capture a little bit of the spirit behind my grandmother’s stories.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Some of my characters had their roots in Star Trek fan fiction I wrote as a teen. Lairdin started out as a half Betazoid/half Vulcan character in those stories. Ana also had some rooting in those tales.
Other characters in Mir Maid are generic composites of people I have known, especially during a time when I interned with about 500 other 18-20 year olds at a ministry that sent teens on short term mission trips. It’s as close as I have ever come to my grandmothers WAC experiences.
Some characters, like Becky Willis–who was supposed to die early in the book, but refused to–introduced themselves to me in the course of writing this story. Becky may just get her own book in this series.
Holidays: another blaring reminder you’re a freak who will always be alone. Joining Days made Ana wish she’d never been born, or at least, not as a Maid. This village’s Joining Day, the third she had attended in a week, threatened to break Ana’s last thread of sanity. Thanks to her unwanted telepathic gift, she nearly drowned in longing and desire at every one of these stupid love-fests. So many in a week only compounded the effect. Muirgen Kai often said, “want and passion fade with time”. Ana, no longer a child but far from the puckering wrinkles of her Mentor, stifled frustration as the rising excitement of the gathered villagers translated into another wave of searing loneliness.
Ana’s toes sunk into the cool sand as she delivered the last sweet bread from the bakery to one of the already heavy laden banqueting tables that lined the top of the sand dune. She surveyed plates of fish, fruit, bread and intricate cakes. Plenty to feed the village well into the night.
Girls in stiff, starched dresses walked along the ring of tables, lighting torches made from the fat of ponderous sea creatures. The sun dipped below the ocean. A cry came from below them as sparks and smoke danced to the heavens, beckoning Ana and the others to leave their preparations and join the rest of the village near the warm fire.
Ana towered above the village girls; these maidens would serve their village for only a short season before they became women. Their dresses were a nod to, or maybe a mockery of, the white postulant’s robe that Ana wore, her only clothing.
One day, sometime around their twelfth year, on a night much like this one, they would trade their white robes for a scarlet one and be joined to another. The village youths spent their adolescence betrothed to a future spouse and apprenticed, learning skills vital to the community. On another Joining Day, they married, and took their place among the adults of the village. For Ana, maidenhood wasn’t a step in the progression towards adulthood, but a way of life, a religion. Born with the mark of the Maids, it was her destiny to serve. Ana was given no choice in the matter.
Forcing herself forward, her eyes swept the empty village. The last rays of sunlight silhouetted fishing vessels, on the edge of a distant beach, docked for the night. Below her, a hard- working people gathered within a ring of torches for the highlight of their year.
Muirgen Kai, the Priestess Healer of the Wilds, herself a white-clad Maid, held both arms above her head in benediction as she spoke. “Whose Joining Day is this?”
“Not mine,” thought Ana, arms crossed in front of her, dingy sleeves of her once-white postulant’s robe pushed up to the elbows. She clambered down the dune and settled towards the back of the crowd, willing herself not to respond, willing tears not to fall.
A bonfire reached for passive stars as yet another village gathered for its most holy convocation. Rustics, as these villagers who scorned technology were known, stood in a compact circle around the woman and the bonfire, in reverent awe.
Two scarlet-clad couples came forward now and knelt before the Maid, lifting their voices in the familiar liturgy spoken by a hundred generations before them. This was the way of Mir, and at least for Rustics of the Wilds, this way remained unchanged.
Ana chafed under the yoke of a thousand years of tradition. She cursed the violet hair and eyes which marked her as a Maid, and destined her to a life of celibate service. Ana’s only choice in life: wandering the Wilds with her eccentric Mentor or spending the rest of it in a convent.
When she was a child she pretended her own Joining Day would come. In one fantasy she lived in an island city, surrounded by modern convenience and a family who cared little for the old ways. In another, her hair and eye color changed as she grew. Muirgen announced it had all been a horrible mistake, and returned her to whatever poor fisherman’s family had abandoned their freakish child at the convent gates nearly two decades ago.
“Join hands,” Muirgen commanded the couples. The elder Maid began a song, voice warbling and fading in places, but the song itself lent power to its singer. Jealousy shot through Ana as the faces of the young teenagers transformed, their mind and souls joined for the rest of their lives.
As Muirgen’s longing song transported her with the couples to another time and place, Ana’s raging tears wet the sandy soil. Her last thread of control broke as the bonding experience of the youths amplified through the elder Maid’s song. Otherness and solitude rose in Ana’s chest now, a stark contrast to the oneness and togetherness felt by the couples, and vicariously by their families. When the song faded, two older youths came forward. Completing their Joining Years, they came to marry. This song burst with joy from Muirgen’s lips. The crowd swayed as emotion rippled out from where Muirgen stood. Wedding songs left villages on an emotional high for days and it was no coincidence Muirgen planned a return trip next summer. The Maids anticipated their midwifery skills would be in high demand.
Ana swallowed a lump in her throat as Muirgen sang on. How could she sing so joyfully of something she would never know? The rest of the villagers began to dance. Why not me? Anger grew into rebellion. She took a step closer, into the circle, tired of feeling sorry for herself.
A village boy grabbed Ana and spun her around. She laughed, forgetting herself, letting joy carry her away. For a moment, she could pretend to belong. She reeled in the rising emotion coming from the dancers, allowing a different passion to displace her anger. Long after the wedding song had stopped, the music and dancing continued for the young people as the rest of the village feasted. Muirgen faded into the background for all but Ana, who squirmed under the scrutiny of her ever-watchful eye.
“It’s time to go,” Muirgen said, appearing over Ana’s shoulder as the straw-haired boy pulled her in for a kiss.
“Can’t I … ?” Her voice cracked and her eyes filled with tears. Everyone else marries and breeds and dances. Why was I born only to serve?
“Come child, the way of a Maid is chaste.” Muirgen answered with only her mind, simultaneously breaking the sway Ana held over the boy.
The boy slunk away, back to the dance. Ana turned to Muirgen; “I didn’t do anything. We were dancing.”
“You shouldn’t misuse your gift on the poor village boys.” Muirgen ‘pathed with her mind. A moment later she spoke aloud. “Come build me a fire. We’ll sleep on the beach tonight. I am weary and cold. So, so tired.” The woman swayed, the events of the day and the effort of the song demanding their toll. Ana forced her gaze away from the woman’s face, forced herself not to see the bone-weariness in the rheumy eyes, or the way her whole body slumped. She’d remember it wasn’t Muirgen’s fault, any of it. Ana wanted to hold on to her anger for a little bit longer.
She’d later regret her words, she already regretted them as she spoke. “I’m tired too. I’m tired of mended clothes and sleeping on the beach when everyone else gets lovely houses and warm beds. I’m tired of being different. I just want to be normal for once. To dance. To enjoy the feast I helped with all day while you slept..”
“Come,” said the woman, pushing Ana with her mind. “Your gift separates you from the others. It must.
Ana followed, powerless to refuse. She took Muirgen’s arm and walked at an old woman’s shuffling pace into the night. She toyed with the idea of running away after the woman was asleep. If Muirgen Kai wanted to give her life away to people who barely appreciated the sacrifice, it was her choice, but Ana wanted something different.
“Ana, dear, what do you want for your life?” It was as if Muirgen was reading her thoughts. Ana pulled her arm away, not certain this wasn’t the case.
“Does it matter what I want?” Ana replied. “I was born a Maid. ” She would never run away. She would never marry. How could she? Her future sealed the moment she was born with the recessive traits of another race that shared this ocean world. Now, Ana could only grasp at the lives and dreams of others as they passed her by. Though gifted, she was powerless.
It took a small eternity for Ana to get the fire started, and Muirgen hummed to herself with distant eyes as Ana worked.
“Once a boy ran away on his Joining Day, he ran to the sea…”
“Is that new?” Ana bent and blew on the strips of bark sparking to light.
“I’ve been meaning to sing it to you.” The old woman yawned.
“He found a basket by the sea, what treasure lay within, a baby in the basket, a princess in the basket…” The Maid nodded off.
Ana wanted to wake her and ask for the rest of the story, but thought better of it. She laid Muirgen gently back on her sleeping pallet and returned to the fire to add more kindling. Long after Muirgen’s breath came slowly and rhythmically, in the light of faulty stars and cursed Fates, Ana wrapped her arms around her knees and cried.
Ana sat up quickly, rubbing bleariness from her swollen face. Had she been sleeping? A series of popping sounds in the distance jolted her awake. Her eyes followed green and white trails of light in the night sky. Shooting stars? No, these were moving strangely, too close to the horizon. A blinding flash flowered into a thousand, thousand burning embers. The sound came later. A whine. Streaks of color came closer, and the whining grew louder. Ana searched the night sky for one particular point of light, for the glowing city orbiting above.
Her gaze fixed on Fraternity City, the space station orbiting the ocean world. Men in the village spat any time the name came up. Even in the cities, the station’s welcome above the waters of Mir grew thin. Now men gossiped of stolen artifacts, air-space incursions, even missing children. In the sky, more explosions bloomed across the horizon. Were rockets invading Mir- space?
Ana sat rapt, and a little frightened, as the pops and blossoms of light grew nearer. As quickly as the battle began, it was over, leaving the girl only with questions. In the wee hours before the dawn, Ana wondered at a universe bigger than the Wilds, or the large land-mass that made up the Eden Province, or even all of the Sea Kingdoms and island cities of Mir.
In a time and a place distant from our own, a tale rises of the girl who overthrew corporations and overcame an army of genetically-engineered nightmares. Because of this, and the love that moved a city thousands of light-years across space, her name lives on. Wherever epics of heroism are told–whether on the ocean world of Mir, on the old Terran colonies, around the rainbow thrones of Drandel, in the midst of the Paruud Rebellion, or in the space-traversing cities which survived the Faerie Wars–on everyone’s lips is the name, Ana Kai.
The true tale of Anahita Kai begins on a day stolen from my mind for many years. On the day of my twelfth birthday my parents spoke in hushed tones. While I pined for the stars, my parents spoke of fortuitous betrothals. My life was all mapped out–a political marriage, the Academy, and someday a post as Science Adviser to the Council. So caught up in their schemes, my parents missed a knock on the door. I rushed to the garden wall, leaning over for a good view.
An old woman, ripe and windblown, leaned on her cane at our doorstep. She gripped an orb stone in her other hand, the only evidence of her crime, and the further sins she planned to commit. I’m sure she thought herself on a fool’s errand, but she put up a brave front. From the garden, I had a clear view of her as she turned to take in the modern homes with their perfectly manicured gardens. Uncertainty traveled across her plain features.
Muirgen Kai began and ended her life a Maid, marked from birth, as Ana would be, for a life of service behind convent walls. I suppose everything changed for her on the night an unwanted child was born and Muirgen decided to take the fate of the world into her hands.
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