From the New York Times bestselling coauthor of the Dragonlance, Dark Sword, and Deathgate series, comes her first solo novel, set in an all-new sure-to-be bestselling world, The Dragonvald. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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June 10, 2003
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Excerpt from Mistress of Dragons by Margaret Weis
EVERY MORNING, BEFORE THE SUN ROSE TO GILD THE white marble columns of the monastery with flecks of gold, the High Priestess went to the Chamber of the Watchful Eye to perform the Rite of Seeing. She alone could conduct the ancient ritual -- that was her duty, her privilege.
As the other priestesses murmured morning prayers in their cells, Melisande, the High Priestess, walked the chill, dark pathways that led from the monastery proper to the small temple where she would perform the rite. Built out on a promontory overlooking the valley and the city below, the Chamber of the Watchful Eye was circular in shape, constructed of black marble, its domed roof supported by black marble columns. The temple had no walls. Standing within its columns, Melisande could look out to the fir and cedar and hemlock trees that formed a natural wall around the monastery.
Another wall -- this one of stone, man-made -- surrounded the monastery, its extensive grounds, and outbuildings. The Chamber of the Watchful Eye lay outside this wall. Melisande let herself out through a wicket gate every morning to perform the ceremony. Female warriors atop the wall kept close watch on their priestess, prepared to hasten to her defense, should that be needful.
The temple housed one sacred object -- an enormous, white marble bowl. Inside the bowl, lapis lazuli had been inlaid into the marble to form the iris of an Eye. The Eye's pupil, in the very center of the bowl, was jet. Every day at noon, the youngest acolytes, virgins in both mind and body, came to wash and polish the marble Eye. Every dawn, before the sunrise, the High Priestess came to see what the Eye saw.
Though the sun's dawn colors smeared the eastern sky with pink, those colors had not yet driven away night's shadows that clustered thick and heavy, tangled in the boughs of the fir trees. Melisande brought no lamp with her, however, but walked the path in darkness. She had no need for lamplight. She had walked this path every morning for the past ten years, ever since she was eighteen. She knew every crack in the flagstone, every dip and rise of the hillside, every twist and turning of the ridge along which the path led. When she stepped out of the shadow and into the fading starlight, she was close to the temple. Four more steps along the path, round a small coppice of pine, and she could see it silhouetted against the gradually lightening sky.
Melisande wore her ceremonial gown, put on in the morning to perform the ritual and removed on her return, to be smoothed and neatly folded and laid at the bottom of the bed in her small cell, in readiness for the morrow. Handwoven of angora yarn, the gown was dyed black, then dipped in purple. Melisande was one with the night when she wore the gown, another reason she preferred not to carry a light. When she removed the sumptuous gown every day, exchanging it for her daily garb, she shed the sacred mysteries of the night and took on the mundane chores of the day.
Arriving at the temple, Melisande slipped her feet out of the leather sandals before entering. The marble was cold, but she had grown used to treading on it barefoot, even enjoying the thrill that went through her body as her flesh touched the chill stone. Whispering prayers, she ascended the three steps that led to the dais on which stood the Eye. Melisande knelt before the bowl, said the ritual prayer, then lifted up the flagon of holy water that rested on the floor beside the Eye.
She poured the water into the bowl. The blue iris shimmered in the expanding light of the dawn. The Eye shimmered with unshed tears.
of the Sacred Order of the Eye, perched atop the mountain known as the Sentinel.