Once, Juvana had been a space-faring world—but a nuclear war destroyed all technology of the planet, taking them back to the Stone Age. This is the story of the people who brought Juvana back into the family of humanity and back to the stars—and of the people who helped them. It is the story of heart and courage, of love and faith. It is the story of Juvana Rising.
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Read an Excerpt
Book 4 of the Saga of the Princesses of the Light
By James A. McKenzie
iUniverseCopyright © 2016 James A. McKenzie
All rights reserved.
Guval walked through the forest. He was the best hunter. He was the best warrior. His spear was the sharpest and he had ground it on the rock himself. He was eighteen years old and he was almost old enough to be an elder. The forest dripped with moisture in the early morning. The forest was made up of trees that had three levels of foliage. The top level was a canopy that shut out most of the light. It was easily three hundred feet above the forest floor. The butterflies and the bees and, at night the moths lived up there. The yellow blossoms of the kna were huge, and the bees and the birds and the butterflies dwelt up there. Guval had been up there once and smelled the fragrance of the kna, but he was known among the People for his bravery.
Guval knelt by a print in the mud. Never had he seen a footprint like that, and he did not know what it was. He knew the prints of every beast that walked the world, even the lionths. He knew all of the hunters of the forest and he had killed one of the lionths when he was just twelve, but never had he seen a footprint that had no toes. He took one step slowly after another. Water dripped from the liana and the rhododendron. The heat and the humidity were already oppressive.
A snake assailed him, and the snake was twenty feet long. It sought to wrap its body around him and crush him. Guval pushed his spear down the snake's throat and then up into its brain. The snake thrashed about as it died, but Guval had killed the snakes before so he knew what was to happen.
He rested for a moment and he ate of many of the black berries that grew on the vines wrapped among the big leaves of the Rhododendron.
He came to an opening in the forest and there was a meadow in the morning sun. It was filled with grass and it was interspaced with plants that had small pink flowers. He jerked up the sweet grass and he ate it. His people did not get a chance to eat the sweet grass often. There weren't that many meadows in the People's world. He savored the taste.
It was already too warm to be in the bright sun, so Guval waded through the grass to the other side of the meadow. There was a stream on the far side of the meadow and Guval planned to follow it up stream to the waterfall to see if there were any fish in the pool below the falls. The stream was slow moving and deep by the edge of the meadow, but it was only ten feet wide. Guval felt better under the shade of the trees and he walked along the path that the animals had worn by the banks of the stream. There, in the dirt he saw another one of the strange tracks. He began to follow them.
He reached the edge of the pool and he slowly crept out, so he wouldn't scare the fish. There he got a surprise. There was someone in the pool. She stood under the waterfall and she was completely naked. The woman was easily a foot taller than he was and her body was magnificent. He was mesmerized; he had never seen a black woman before.
Guval heard a rasping noise behind him and he turned to the sound. There was another woman there and she was dressed in white. She held a long bright object toward him. "Onni, get dressed," she yelled. "We've got company.
Guval held up his spear and the woman took the point off of it with one motion of the object she carried. Guval stepped back and looked at his spear. Then he held it up to use as a club. The woman moved again and Guval's spear was only a foot long. The woman raised one of her eyebrows at him.
By now the other woman was dressed the same as the woman that was holding the bright object. The woman towered over Guval. "I hope you got a good look," she said, but Guval did not understand one word she said.
"Well, Sophie," said Onnika. "We have made contact with the natives. What do you think?"
"I don't know what happened on this world, but the people are right out of the Stone Age. He is malnourished, probably full of parasites, and I don't think he can understand us," said Sophie. "Do you speak English?" she asked slowly. Nothing.
"What do you think, Sophie? Is he just being stubborn?" asked Onnika.
"I really don't think so, Onni," said Sophie.
"Well, what are we going to do?" asked Onnika.
"We are going to start at the beginning," said Sophie. She put her sword away and Guval ran. He didn't get very far before he was tackled by Onnika Demming. "Don't you run away, fool," she said. "This is your lucky day."
Onnika stood and grabbed him by his fur. She hauled him to his feet and he was amazed at the power of the woman.
Sophie had seen that Goval was right handed and she took his right wrist in her right hand. He tried to move and he could not.
"We are going to try this again," said Sophie. "Onni, let him go and come around and stand next to me." Onnika let go and came around next to Sophie.
Sophie was still holding Guval's wrist and he could not move. Sophie put her left hand on her chest. "Sophie," she said.
She put her left hand on Onnikas chest. "Onni," she said.
She put her left hand on his chest. No response.
Sophie did it again.
And Sophie did it again.
Guval realized that those were names. He put his hand to his chest. "Guval," he said.
He was rewarded with a smile. Guval realized that he was talking to a Goddess, and he knelt.
"Nope, nope, nope, not going there. Not doing that," said Sophie. She had hauled him to his feet and he was amazed at the strength of this woman too. Sophie patted him on the cheek. "Onni I think we need to eat," said Sophie. "Would you be kind enough to start a fire?"
Onnika started a fire and Guval stared at her. This woman could call down fire from the skies! The only fire that Guval had ever seen was from a lightning strike. The results of that had not been pretty. That was when one of his sisters had died. He fell to his knees again. The one called Onnika picked him up again. "No, no, no," she said, and she shook her finger in his face, left and right as she said it. "Not doing the Goddess thing."
They cooked meat on sticks and they gave one to Guval. Sophie took a bite out of it before she gave it to him. Guval had never had a hot meal before and he had never had bread. "This is a hot dog," said Sophie. "Can you say 'hot dog?"
Guval was convinced that he had died and gone to heaven.
The sun was high in the sky now and the heat was oppressive, but it did not seem to bother the women. They tied Guval to a tree and he went to sleep. When he awoke in early evening there were many more women there. There were more than he could count on his fingers. There was a fire and there was a red deer over the fire. The hide and inside of the deer had been removed. It was spitted up the middle by a long pole and a woman was slowly turning it. Guval had never smelled meat cooking before, but it made his mouth water. There was another fire and something was suspended over the fire. Guval did not know what that was. He had never seen anything like it.
Sophie came to him with several women and untied him. He stood and he put his hand on Sophie's chest "Sophie," he said. He put his hand on Onnika's chest. "Onni," he said.
"Uh ... we need to work a little on etiquette," said Sophie. "But we've made a start."
Guval was not bound and he was free to wander the campsite. He looked at the deer on the spit. "Deer," said Sophie.
"Epha, "said Guval.
"Deer," said Sophie.
"Deer," said Guval.
"Epha," said Sophie.
The deer was done cooking and Sophie got an object. "Plate," she said.
"Plate," repeated Guval.
Sophie took a knife and she began to carve meat off the deer. She held the knife up. "Knife," she said.
"Knife," repeated Guval.
Sophie went to the other object. He was carrying his own plate now. She took another tool and dipped something out of the object. "Potato," she said.
"Onf," said Guval.
"Onf," said Sophie.
"Potato," said Guval.
Guval knew what a potato was, they grew wild all over. He had never had one that was cooked though. He ate the deer and the potato and he was sure he had died and gone to heaven. Guval ate more than he had ever eaten in his life and fell asleep leaning on a tree.
The next morning Guval awoke feeling happy and contented. Sophie had put a blanket on him in the night and he marveled at it. He was warm and he felt good. These people were all right he thought, as he drifted off to sleep in the early morning light.
When he awoke it was full morning. Onni was in front of him with a plate. "Good morning," said Onnika. "This is breakfast. This is bacon and eggs." Again Duval was sure he had died and gone to heaven. Guval had been listening very carefully to everything around him. "Thank you," he said.
"You're welcome," said Onnika. He had heard that before and he smiled.
Guval was learning to speak their language well, and Onnika was teaching him to use a sword. Guval had used his sword to kill one of the great snakes of the forest. He was surprised when the women cut up the snake and cooked it. It tasted like chi.
"Guval," said Sophie. "You have done well and you have learned. There is a next step that you must take. Do you trust me?"
"With my life, Sophie", said Guval.
They were on the King William. "You are in space, Guval. This is where we came from."
"You travel stars, Princess?" he asked.
"Yes, we do, Guval," said Sophie.
"What you need with me?" asked Guval.
"Your people are from the stars," said Sophie. "Your DNA is the same as the people from old Earth. We want to know what happened to you, and we want to let you into our world. We know that this was a settled world and a populated world. There are ruins everywhere. There are less than twenty thousand of you scattered over a planet that should support nine billion easily."
The numbers were meaningless to Guval; he could only count on his fingers.
Sophie knew that she had lost him because he had that glazed look that people get when they do not understand.
"Uh ... never mind," said Sophie. "Come with me."
"You were right, Sophie," said Melissa Hanratty. "He's chock full of parasites. That's what happens when you eat all of your food raw. This should cure him, if you can get him to drink it."
Sophie took the cup from Melissa. It was full of green liquid. She made a drinking motion to Guval and then she made a face. Then she handed the cup to Guval. He looked at the cup and then he looked at Sophie. Sophie could tell that he was apprehensive and she smiled at him. Guval trusted Sophie. He knew that she would not hurt him. He also knew that she would not let anyone else hurt him.
Guval drank from the cup, and then he made a face. It tasted really bad.
"Guess how old our boy here is," said Melissa.
"I'm guessing he's about sixty," said Sophie. Guval's face was lined and his hair was completely gray.
"You would be wrong," said Melissa. "His blood work tells us he is eighteen. I'm guessing that most of the people on this planet don't live much past twenty-five."
Sophie was on her feet and had taken Guval by the hand. He did not know what the look in her eyes was as she looked at him. It was pity.
"Can you do anything, Melissa?" asked Sophie.
"It just so happens I can," said Melissa. She handed Sophie a hand mirror. "He is going to want to see the before and the after," she said.
Sophie showed Guval his reflection in the mirror. He had never seen himself before. He touched the mirror and he looked at Sophie. "That's you," she said.
Melissa gave him another cup. This time it was full of blue liquid. He drank the liquid, and immediately his whole body was on fire. When he could move again he was very angry. "Nope," said Sophie, as she put her hand on his chest. "I wouldn't let anyone hurt you. Look."
Guval looked in the mirror. All of the lines in his face were gone. His hair was brown. He was young and strong again. He knelt before Sophie and Melissa. "Sophie?" he asked. "My people?"
"We will go to your creeb after we have cleaned you up some," said Sophie. Sophie took him to a room that was almost full of water in a pool. There Shannon Hanratty and four other women gave him a bath, cut his nails and washed his hair. Guval had never had a bath. He could learn to like this.
Two hours later he was again in front of Sophie. He was wearing leather and his hair was in a ponytail. Most of his unruly beard was gone. Guval rather liked how he looked.
"Are you ready?" asked Sophie. Guval nodded.
"They may not know who you are," said Sophie. "Be ready for anything."
Sophie and Guval beamed into Guval's village, his Creeb. There were only twenty of the People and they lived in two huts. About a third of them were children of various ages. Five of the men held wooden spears and advanced on Sophie and Guval in a crouch. "Way!" shouted Guval. The looks on the People were hard. They were ready to die. Guval put his hand to his chest. "Guval," he said. He put his hand on Sophie's arm. "Sophie," he said. "Fern."
"Sona," said Guval and he held out his hand. One of the old women that had a child next to her looked at him. "Guval?" she asked. They had grown up together. The child by her side was Guval's. She walked through the spears and she took Guval's hand. "Ah bleeve," she said. Guval took Sona by the hand and turned her toward the princess. "Sophie, please?" he asked.
Sophie gave her some blue liquid. Sona looked at Guval and smiled. "Ma bay," she said, and she drank it. Sona was in instant agony and she was on her knees. The People hissed and raised their spears. Guval rubbed her back.
The woman that stood had a twenty-year old body, and she was magnificent. She had never looked that good in her life. The People stepped back another step but they went "Ooh." The little girl took her mother's hand. "Mommy?" asked the little girl. Sophie looked at the little girl. Sona picked up the little girl. She went to Guval and put the little girl in his waiting arms. He put his other arm around her and held her tight. "Thank you, Sophie," said Guval. Sophie knelt.
The rest of the people drank the blue liquid and they were all young again. Several of the people from the King William transferred down and the People shied away from them. "No," said Guval. "Fern." He went to Onnika. "Onni," he said.
Nikkola came into the village with Mirabeth and Shannon. They had a red deer on a pole. Sophie and Guval had set up a fire. Guval lit the fire with a flint. All of his people took a step back and went "Ooh." Mirabeth and Shannon skinned and gutted the deer and put it on the spit. All of the villagers watched. They had never seen meat cook before. They had never had red deer before. The smell was enticing. A few more women had beamed down and they had set up tables and chairs. None of the People had ever seen tables and chairs before. Sona laughed as Guval taught her how to sit in a chair. He held her hand as he held his daughter. Sona kissed him fiercely.
Guval taught them all how to hold a plate. He taught them all what a knife was. He taught them all what a fork was. He carved meat from the red deer for all of them. They all knelt. He looked at Sophie. Sophie winked at him and he knew the truth about Gods and people. That night Sona made sure that he knew the truth about people. Sona was fierce in her love for people. Sona was fierce in her love for the Princess Sophie.
The women from the starship beamed home to bed. The people of the village went to bed happy and well fed.
Sophie was talking with Anne of Drakul and Onni. "I can't understand most of what they say," she said. "But I clearly heard the little girl say 'Mommy."
"Languages have been known to drift," said Anne. "We still haven't figured out the event that did this to these people and we haven't figured out how long ago it happened. I would like to go with you tomorrow, if I could?" asked Anne.
"Sure," said Sophie. "Tomorrow we get to build a hut. Melissa is going along to kill all of the parasites."
Sophie and her small party beamed down just before dawn. They quietly built a fire ring of rocks by lantern light. It was about six feet in diameter. The villagers woke to rabbits roasting on the spit. "Mor, Sophie," said Sona as she hugged Sophie.
"Mor, Sona," said Sophie.
"Sona, this is Nikkola. This is Brin. This is Morgan. This is Melissa. And this is my sister Anne," said Sophie.
Sona surprised the daylights out of the women. She curtsied. "Plezmet," she said.
Sonas daughter came running out of the hut with her father and she leaped into her mother's arms. "Mommy!" said the girl.
"I have something for you," said Sophie, and she held out a stuffed bunny. The little girl held out her arms with delight as she accepted the stuffed bunny and her eyes lit up.
Excerpted from Juvana Rising by James A. McKenzie. Copyright © 2016 James A. McKenzie. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
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