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Mistress of Dragons (Dragonvarld #1)

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Overview

"Smart and distinctly alien, Weis's dragons are in no way cuddly"

?Locus

"Full of intrigue, magic, and violence, this first book of Dragonvarld?a projected trilogy chronicling the battle to preserve the uneasy relationship between dragons and humans?launches the project powerfully."

?Booklist

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Overview

"Smart and distinctly alien, Weis's dragons are in no way cuddly"

Locus

"Full of intrigue, magic, and violence, this first book of Dragonvarld—a projected trilogy chronicling the battle to preserve the uneasy relationship between dragons and humans—launches the project powerfully."

Booklist

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
The publication of Mistress of Dragons marks a milestone in the fantasy publishing world. It's the first true fantasy written solely by Margaret Weis without her writing partner, Tracy Hickman, who coauthored bestselling series like Dragonlance and Death's Gate Cycle.

Weis's new world of Dragonvald is a wild medieval realm populated by humans and secretly ruled by godlike dragons. The winged overlords even have their own governing body, the Parliament of Dragons, where events concerning dragons are discussed and policies decided. But dragon sightings are rare, and many humans don't even believe they exist -- except in Seth, an isolated mountain kingdom where the Mistress of Dragons is the true ruler. The Mistress heads a cultlike female monastery called the Temple of the Watchful Eye, where women are trained as fierce warriors or magic-wielding priestesses. The monastery's main mission is the defense of Seth against dragons. Although the last dragon attack was more than 20 years ago, the Amazonian warriors still train, and the priestesses still practice their powerful, arcane magic.

Melisande is the High Priestess, next in line to be Mistress of Dragons. The current Mistress is old and sickly, and it's only a matter of time until Melisande takes over the order. Life in the monastery is close to idyllic for Melisande and her lover, a woman named Bellona, who is commander of the warriors. But there is a whole world outside the isolated kingdom of Seth, one filled with humans and dragons alike who have conflicting ideas about the female monastery and its true purpose. Paul Goat Allen

Publishers Weekly
Best known for her successful partnership with Tracy Hickman (Dragons of the Vanished Moon, etc.), Weiss launches a new series on her own that's sure to please high fantasy fans. In the world of Dragonvald, an ancient race of dragons with its own parliament has kept apart from the race of men and refrained from meddling in their affairs. Since a renegade dragon, Maristara, seized the human realm of Seth three centuries earlier, an Amazonian order of priestesses with magical powers and the Mistress of Dragons have kept the peace. But evidence that Maristara and a partner-in-crime have indulged in their taste for human flesh means renewed trouble. Draconas, who can change into a man, sets forth into human territory to resolve the problem. The ensuing conflicts and complications, as Draconas learns the true identity of the Mistress of Dragons, will keep readers turning the pages. A cliffhanger ending, involving the birth of a part-dragon human baby, will leave them eager for the next installment. Author tour. (May 28) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
The country of Seth is protected from evil dragons by the magic Mistress of Dragons, Melisande the high priestess, the Sisters of the Eye, and an all-female warrior corps. Draconas is the chosen walker-a dragon in human form that moves through the world doing tasks for the Parliament of Dragons. He is to abduct the Mistress to reveal a way to change Seth, which is actually ruled by a vicious renegade dragon that has incredible power and an unknown accomplice among the other dragons. Edward, young king of Ramsgate, devoted husband and father, is to be the tool of this intrigue. Draconas is sent to win him over to a great adventure, which he succeeds in doing, but the path to accomplishment goes greatly awry because the Mistress is more than thought to be, doing great evil and teaching magic to humans. Melisande learns some of the truth and escapes with Edward and Draconas. By book's end, the Mistress is still in control in Seth; Melisande births two children-one Edward's, one part dragon-and dies. Edward's child, likely to have magic, will be raised in his kingdom, and the other is given to Melisande's female warrior lover to raise and protect. In the first book of a planned trilogy, The Dragonvald, Weis gives readers several intriguing characters and room for lots of plotting. Readers will be pulled into the clashing cultures, fascinating personalities, and the secrets that still need to be revealed. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2003, Tor, 400p, Morrow
KLIATT
In this first novel in the Dragonvarld series, a dragon has broken all of the rules of the Parliament of Dragons, whose credo includes a no-kill policy on humans and forbids dragons' involvement in human affairs. The dragons believe that the Mistress of Dragons, a human female who repelled their species from the kingdom of Seth, has gained knowledge of dragon magic from a rogue dragon, Maristara. The Parliament of Dragons decides that it must stop Maristara and find out who is secretly helping her take over the kingdom of Seth. Engaging in a clandestine plan, the dragon leaders send Draconas, a human/dragon hybrid, to search out the Mistress of Dragons who they believe will provide evidence of Maristara's misconduct in teaching dragon magic, partaking of human flesh, and creating her own army of human soldiers. Weis excels at building a world in which dragons seem so alien and yet at the same time so human. Draconas succeeds as an encapsulation of both species as he fights against each side of his inner nature and feels the constant betrayal to one side or the other. An addictive read, this fantasy novel doesn't fail to mix great tragedy with mighty heroics. Moving along with a sense of urgency, the novel leads right into the next book, leaving the reader eager for the sequel, The Dragon's Son. Readers of Lawrence Watt-Evans's Dragon Weather will especially enjoy this fantasy and any readers interested in dragon lore will appreciate the characterization of these mythical creatures. KLIATT Codes: SA*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Tor, 345p., Ages 15 to adult.
—Ginger Armstrong
Kirkus Reviews
Weis abandons her uncompleted Sovereign Stone Trilogy (Guardians of the Lost, 2001, with Tracy Hickman) to kick off a new solo effort. The fair virgin Melisande, at 28, is High Priestess in the monastery of the Amazonian order, overlooking and protecting the people of the valley of Seth. Fresh virgin warriors for the order are produced by nine members--called cows--who are kept aside for giving birth (male babies supposedly are given to needy folk in the valley). Her lover is dark-haired Bellona, chief warrior, and her chief enemy in the order is Lucretta, jealous that the current Mistress of Dragons--70, white-haired, and bent--has chosen Melisande to replace her when she dies. As Melisande conducts her morning rites at the Chamber of the Eye, she sees a lone male dragon approaching and alerts the warriors, but the Mistress of Dragons, leading her priestesses in magic spells against the dragon, suddenly collapses, although the marauder is driven off. Centuries before, the Dragon Wars with humans ended and the Parliament of Dragons formed, ruling that dragons must keep from human affairs. Maristara, however, took over Seth and rules there, teaching the humans dragon magic. The only human form to attend the Parliament is Draconas, a warrior male who, as the Parliament’s servant but actually a dragon himself, can think in images along with the dragons. It’s suggested that Draconas be sent to Seth to abduct the Mistress of Dragons and bring her back to help find a way of overcoming Maristara. Draconas hoodwinks Edward, King of Ramsgate, to accompany him to Seth. Draconas and Edward repulse hired assassins on the road, but Draconas determines that Maristara is trafficking in the male babiesof the "cows" and has left a door open in Seth’s magic shield. The bang-up climax finds Melisande giving birth to twins, one wholly human, one half-dragon, as the pot boils for volume two.
From the Publisher
"Sure to please high fantasy fans."

Publishers Weekly

 

"Full of intrigue, magic, and violence ... Weis has brilliantly conceived a world."

Booklist (Starred Review)

 

"Non-stop action and surprise revelations keep the pages turning."

RT Book Reviews

 

"An addictive read ... Exceptional book."

KLIATT

 

"Weis gives readers several intriguing characters ... Readers will be pulled into the clashing cultures, fascinating personalities, and the secrets that still need to be revealed."

VOYA

 

Praise for Margaret Weis:

 

"Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis have emerged as standouts in the field." —Dallas Morning News

"Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman have built an impressive reputation creating fantasy worlds in far flung galaxies where all manner of evil lurks." —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Weis and Hickman are now definitely up at the same level as Dave Duncan or David Eddings, using conventional fantasy elements on the grand scale to produce excellent reading." —Chicago Sun-Times

"A rich and vibrant fantasy world populated with various races and complex, believable characters." —Library Journal

"A classic tale . . . touched with originality." —Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765343901
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 5/1/2004
  • Series: Dragonvarld Trilogy Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 456,074
  • Product dimensions: 3.70 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret Weis resides in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. With Tracy Hickman, she has co-authored five bestselling fantasy series.

 

Gigi Marceau-Clark appeared in the film The Clap. She's read several audiobooks, including Margaret Weis's Mistress of Dragons, Graham Swift's Last Orders, and Tracy Chevalier's The Virgin Blue. Of her reading of Mistress of Dragons, AudioFile magazine said, "Gigi Marceau-Clarke shines in her performance of Margaret Weis's novel. She's got a beautiful voice—she even sings at times during the novel—and breathes life into the numerous characters."

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Read an Excerpt

1

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.

Melisande waited until the ripples ceased, the water was still and smooth, to say the ritual words, taught to her by the Mistress of Dragons on the day Melisande had been named High Priestess.

"Open wide, you that guard our realm, and let my eye see what you see."

Every morning for ten years, Melisande had looked into the lapis lazuli iris and every morning she had seen what the Eye saw: the valley in which nestled their realm; the mountains that surrounded and guarded and sheltered it; the city of Seth at the northern end of the valley; the farmlands that surrounded and supported it; the castle of the king built in the foothills of the mountain; and ruling over all, the monastery of the Sacred Order of the Eye, perched atop the mountain known as the Sentinel.

This morning, Melisande saw all that and more.

She saw the dragon.

Melisande gasped, stared in disbelief. Though the daily ritual was designed to keep watch for dragons, she herself had never see one. Twenty years had passed since the previous High Priestess had looked into the bowl and seen eight dragons descending on the valley. Melisande recalled that event clearly. She had been eight years old at the time and she could still recall the thrilling terror and excitement as the warriors carried all the little girls to the catacombs beneath the monastery, to keep them safe and out of the way.

The other girls had been in tears. Melisande had not cried. She had crouched in that whimpering, stifling darkness, feeling the ground shake from the powerful forces being unleashed above, and in her mind she was in the Sanctuary of the Eye, alongside the sisters, using her magic to drive away the ferocious beasts bent on destruction. She had not been formally taught the magic; her instruction in that would not begin until she was twelve. But she knew the words from listening to the sisters' daily chants and she had repeated them then, whispering them to herself. The colors of the magic spread in vibrant sheets across her mind—luminous reds and flaring orange, meant to dazzle and confuse the dragons, lure them into range of spear and arrow, or send them crashing into the mountainside.

The battle of the Sacred Order against the invading dragons had been hard fought. Eventually, the powerful magicks of the Mistress and her priestesses and the arrows and spears of the warriors had driven the dragons away from Seth. Emerging from the catacombs that night, Melisande saw splotches of gore being cleansed from the flagstones. Reaching down, she dipped her fingers in it—dragon's blood.

Melisande placed her hands on the rim of the stone bowl, stared into the center. The Eye vanished. The blue iris was blue sky, clear and cloudless. The dragon's green scales glittered in the newly risen sun; the eyes, set on either side of the massive head, seemed to look straight at her, though Melisande knew that this was a trick of the Eye. The dragon was still far distant. He could see the mountains of Seth, perhaps, but nothing more. Not yet.

Melisande sat back on her heels and drew in a deep breath to stop herself from trembling. She was not afraid, for there was nothing to fear. The trembling came from the shock of seeing what she had not expected to see. Rising swiftly, she left the temple, running back up the narrow, flagstone path that led to the monastery. As she ran, she went over in her mind what she must do. There were many actions to be performed and she could not do all of them at once. She had to prioritize, determine the order of importance of each, and this she did as she hastened up the path.

Reaching the gray stone wall that surrounded the monastery, Melisande drew forth the iron key that hung from a silken cord around her waist and used it to open the lock in the wicket gate. She was pleased to see that she had so far disciplined herself that she had stopped trembling. She opened the gate with a steady hand, shut it behind her, and ran through the garden. She could hear a stir on the battlements.

The warriors had been standing guard all night. Their shift was almost over and they yawned as they walked their beat, looking forward to a meal and then their beds. The astonishing sight of their normally dignified High Priestess running barefoot through the wicket gate (she had forgotten her shoes), startled them into wakefulness. An officer called down to her, demanding to know what was wrong, but Melisande did not take time to answer.

She did not enter the monastery. She continued at a run through the garden that completely encircled the four white marble buildings and passed through another iron gate that led to the barracks—a large block house made of the same gray stone as the protective wall that surrounded the monastery. The flagstone path between the monastery and the barracks had been worn smooth by centuries of booted feet. Reaching the barracks, Melisande pushed open the huge wooden doors, and entered into darkness that smelled of leather and steel and the almond oil the women rubbed onto their bodies. Bellona, as commander, was the only warrior to have a private chamber, located in the front of the barracks, so that she could be wakened quickly at need.

The room was small, square, furnished with a wooden bed on which was laid a goose-down mattress. The mattress was a present from Melisande; warriors usually made do with straw. Bellona's polished steel cuirass and helm had been hung neatly on a wooden stand near the bed, her sword and shield placed alongside. A table and two chairs beneath a slit window were so placed as to catch the first rays of the sun.

Bellona was still asleep. She would not waken until the bells rang the end of night, the beginning of the day. She lay on her back, her head turned sideways, her dark hair mussed and tousled. A restless sleeper, she had kicked off the light woolen blanket that had also been a present from Melisande. As usual, the blanket had slithered to the floor. Bellona slept naked, for at any moment the alarm might sound and she must be up and armed and armored.

"Bellona," Melisande called softly from the doorway. She entered the room, shut the door carefully behind her. She had not wanted to startle Bellona, but the timber of her voice must have given her away.

Bellona jolted awake, sat bolt upright, her hand already reaching for her sword. "Melisande? What is it? What is the matter?"

Drawn to strength, drawn to warmth, Melisande sank down on the bed beside the warrior, who regarded her with concern that was starting to deepen into alarm.

"By the rod, you are shivering!" Bellona put her arm around Melisande, held her close. "And your feet! They're bleeding. Where are your shoes?"

"Never mind my shoes. Bellona,"—Melisande drew back to look into the woman's dark eyes—"a dragon is coming. I saw it."

"Melis!" Bellona gasped, gripping her arm tensely. "Are you certain?"

"I am," said Melisande firmly.

"Have you told the Mistress?"

"No, I came to tell you first. I knew you would need time to ready your defense."

Bellona smiled, her dark eyes warmed. "I thank you for thinking of us. Not many of your sisters would have."

"None of my sisters have been instructed by the commander," Melisande answered. She slid reluctantly from the warrior's warm, strong, and reassuring embrace. "I must rouse the Sisterhood, then go to the Mistress."

"Tell her we will be ready," said Bellona, reaching for her armor.

"You must make certain that the little girls are safely removed to the catacombs," said Melisande, still feeling close to those memories.

Bellona nodded absently, her thoughts on all she needed to do. "You can count upon me, Melis."

"I do," said Melisande, squeezing her hand. "Always."

The two exchanged a parting kiss.

"Should I send a messenger to the king?" Melisande asked, turning back as she reached the door. "I hate to disturb him. His youngest child is ill, they say, and not doing well. Both he and the queen are frantic with worry."

"His Majesty should be informed, nevertheless. I will send a runner," said Bellona, lacing up her boots.

"Reassure His Majesty that he need not be concerned," Melisande said. "We are well prepared to deal with the dragon."

"Of course," said Bellona, matter-of-factly.

"I will not ring the great gong, though," Melisande continued, thinking aloud. "Not unless something goes wrong. The people in the valley will still have time to flee if we fail."

"Nothing will go wrong," said Bellona, standing up. "You will not fail."

Her brown-skinned body was all muscle, lithe and powerful, with small, tight breasts. Her body differed from Melisande's, whose was soft and delicate, with the pale skin of one who spends her days inside walls among her books, working her mind, not her muscles.

"You and the Mistress hold us in your care, Melis," Bellona added. "Our trust is in you."

Hastening off to summon the Sisterhood and wake the Mistress, Melisande wished she had as much confidence in herself as her lover had in her.

• • •

The kingdom of Seth, in the valley of Seth, was nominally a monarchy, ruled by either a king or queen, as determined by the sex of the eldest child born to the ruling family. The monarch was nothing more than a figurehead, however, someone for the crowds to cheer on festival days. The Mistress of Dragons was the true ruler of Seth and had been for three hundred years. Everyone knew and acknowledged this fact, including the monarch.

Three hundred years ago, the kingdom of Seth had been held in thrall by a dragon, who had taken up residence in the Sentinel Mountain. The dragon had repeatedly attacked the kingdom, stealing livestock, setting crops ablaze, slaying or carrying off to her lair any person unfortunate enough to be caught out in the open. Hundreds fell victim to the marauder. Hundreds more fled the kingdom, traveling to distant lands. Seth came perilously close to being wiped out of existence. Then came a savior.

One of the festivals still celebrated in Seth commemorates that blessed event. The townsfolk construct a dragon in effigy and carry the huge wooden monstrosity through the streets, accompanied by players dressed in black wearing skull masks, to represent the dead. At the end of the festival, a player clad in white, with the golden mask of the sun, fights the dragon in a mock battle. The figure in white is the Mistress. She destroys the dragon, using a golden sword. The effigy is then burned in a huge bonfire in the middle of the fairgrounds to great rejoicing.

This was symbolic of the event. In reality, the Mistress fought the dragon in a less dramatic but more effective manner, using magic to drive away her foe. The dragon was vanquished, never seen again. The grateful citizens offered the Mistress the wealth of the kingdom. They offered her the kingdom itself, but she refused.

She would not become their king. She would become their goddess. She built a temple on the mountainside and placed inside it the stone bowl known as the Watchful Eye. She asked for nine maidens, virgins all, to volunteer to serve in the temple and learn the art of dragon magic, so that when the Mistress died, she would leave another to keep the kingdom safe.

Down through the centuries, many women assumed the mantle of Mistress, ascended to godhood. The monastery grew in size and in power, so that now twenty-five women, sixteen of whom were virgins, served in the temple. The most senior of the Sisters of the Eye, as they were known, was the High Priestess, the woman responsible for keeping watch for the ancient foe. When the Mistress died, the High Priestess would assume that position.

Her services were still needed. Several times, over the years, the kingdom of Seth was attacked by dragons. The worst assault had been twenty years ago, when eighteen enormous dragons had laid siege to the monastery itself. The battle against them had been fierce. Many of the Sisterhood had died, as had many of the valiant warriors. Dragon blood fell from the skies on that day and so it was known in the annals of history as the Day of Black Rain.

In the end, the dragons were repelled. Never again had the dragons attacked in such numbers, but, every so often, one or two would appear.

"They come to see if we maintain our vigilance," said the Mistress.

The vigilance of the sisters never faltered. The people of Seth lived in peace and prosperity in their isolated valley, looking to the Sisterhood to guard them.

Ten years ago, the Mistress of Dragons had chosen Melisande to be High Priestess. At eighteen, Melisande was the youngest to be selected for the honor, but few disputed the fact that she deserved it, for she was reputed to be the most powerful in dragon magic of any woman yet born in the monastery. The current Mistress was very old, nearly seventy, and in poor health. Melisande was aware that the mantle of godhood could fall upon her at any moment and she strove always to be worthy of the honor.

This day would see if the Mistress's faith in her protégé was justified.

The monastery proper, consisting of four buildings, was built in a square around a central courtyard. In the middle of the courtyard stood two gongs—one enormous gong made of iron and another, smaller gong made of silver. If the iron gong were sounded, the deep booming call would be heard in the city far below and in the farms and forests beyond that, warning the people of Seth that they were under attack, giving them time to flee for their lives into the caverns in the mountains. The other gong was smaller and made of silver. This gong alerted the Sisterhood to the coming of their foe.

Melisande lifted the silver hammer, prepared to strike. She could hear, in the distance, Bellona bellowing commands. Feet pounded as the warrior women raced to their posts. A few of the Sisterhood, hearing the unusual commotion, peered out their windows, wondering what was going on. Melisande did not leave them long in doubt. She struck the silver gong, sending a shivering peal of alarm through the monastery.

More heads looked out the windows of the monastery's east wing that was the dortoir, where the sisters lived.

"Make haste!" Melisande called to them. "I am going to the Mistress."

The heads disappeared, as the women hurried to don their sacred garments. Melisande returned the silver hammer to its stand. The gong continued to vibrate, the notes dying away slowly.

Warriors ran past her, heading for the south side of the monastery, where lived the nine mothers. The mothers—or "cows" as they were known disparagingly among the warrior women—were those sisters chosen by the Mistress to bear children, sacrificing their virginity in order to perpetuate the Sisterhood. Babies were taken away from the mothers shortly after birth. The male babies were given to families in the kingdom who had been denied a male child and needed an heir. Girls were kept in the monastery to be raised by the Sisterhood as sisters or mothers or warriors, depending on the bent taken by the magic in their blood. This wing also held the "mating" rooms (used once monthly) and the birthing rooms.

The warriors emerged from the south wing, escorting the children and mothers to the catacombs beneath the monastery.

Melisande hurried past the west wing that would be empty now. Here were classrooms, where the sisters were taught the sacred magic that kept their kingdom safe. This wing also housed the kitchen and dining hall, the schoolrooms and playrooms for the little girls.

The fourth wing, the north wing, belonged to the Mistress. Here were her chambers. Beneath this wing was the Sanctuary of the Eye.

The Mistress of Dragons lived apart from the Sisterhood, as was right and proper for a goddess. She came among them only rarely. Her life was devoted to the magic and she spent a large part of every day in the Sanctuary, working her powerful magicks that kept the kingdom safe. Two bronze doors barred entry to everyone in the monastery except the High Priestess and chosen members of the Sisterhood, and even they could enter only by invitation. The eilte of the warrior women stood guard.

The warrior women saluted as Melisande approached. They had heard the silver gong and, although they had not received direct orders from the Mistress, this was an emergency and they had standing orders to allow the High Priestess to pass. Melisande was not strong enough to shove open the huge bronze doors; the warrior women performed that office for her.

"Good hunting, High Priestess," said one, as Melisande entered the Mistress's residence.

Daylight entered with her, shining down a long narrow corridor of wood and painted murals. The eyes of the dragons portrayed in murals gleamed with borrowed life in the sunlight. The light vanished as the bronze doors closed with a dull boom, stealing away the life briefly granted them. Windowless, the corridor was lit only by small cresset lights placed at intervals along the wall. Part of the task of the warrior women was to lower the lights, fill them with the oil that kept them burning. The darkness was redolent with the scent of incense, and had a thick, warm, comforting feel.

Running was not permitted in the chambers of the Mistress. Nor was shouting or talking. One was expected to enter with bowed head and sacred thoughts, move with seemly decorum. Melisande had to force herself to slow her steps. She wished that she had not forgotten her shoes. The Mistress would think she lacked discipline. Calming herself with prayer and the thought that the dragon was yet far distant, she decorously walked the shadowy corridors to the Mistress's bedchamber.

She was surprised to find the Mistress's door closed.

The opening of the bronze doors tripped a wire that rang a bell in the chambers of the Mistress, alerting her to the presence of a visitor. Ordinarily, she would open the door in preparation of receiving a guest. Finding the door still closed, Melisande assumed that the elderly Mistress was still sleeping and had not heard the bell's clang. Melisande raised her hand to the bronze knocker, which was in the shape of a dragon, but at that moment, the door swung open.

The Mistress stood within. The golden threads embroidered into her ceremonial robes shone in the light of an oil lamp that stood upon a richly carved wooden table. Her seventy years had sapped the strength of her body. Her hair was snowy white, her face wizened and deeply lined, her thin body bent and stooped. Her voice was strong, however; eagerness flickered in her dark eyes.

"You have seen a dragon," she said.

"I have, Mistress," said Melisande, ashamed to be unable to control a tremor in her voice.

In this sacred place, the enormity of the situation, the danger and the peril for her people, and her own responsibility fell suddenly upon her and she faltered beneath the crushing weight. For a brief moment, she wished fervently that she was once again that eight-year-old girl, being carried to safety in the strong arms of a warrior.

"How many?"

"Just one, Mistress."

"The dragon is coming here? Are you certain?"

"The beast was still very small within the Eye, Mistress. But he grew larger as I watched. He is coming closer. And his gaze looked straight at me."

The Mistress smiled. Her smiles were rare and always inward, so that Melisande was never certain if the Mistress was pleased with something she had done or if her joy rose from some secret held within.

"I knew you would be among the blessed," said the Mistress. She moved toward the door, grasped hold of Melisande's wrist. "I knew when you were small. I could see the magic dancing in your mind. You must describe the dragon to me."

"A young male by his bright coloring, golden green on his back and shoulders and mane, tending to blue scales on his belly and his legs and tail. Should I summon the sisters—"

"Yes, summon them." The Mistress's hand was skin and sinew and bone. She clasped Melisande's wrist tightly. "Send them to the Sanctuary. Alert the warriors—"

"I have already done that, Mistress."

"Ah, yes, you would." The Mistress smiled again. "Then it seems you have done what is needful, Melisande. I will go to the Sanctuary to prepare. You return to the Eye to keep watch. When the dragon's head fills the bowl and it seems that you cannot hide from his sight, the beast will be nearly upon us. Come to the Sanctuary, for we will have need of you."

The Mistress did not let loose her grip. She kept fast hold of her with her hand and her dark, bright eyes.

"This will be your test, Melisande. I have faith in you. Have faith in yourself."

"I will try, Mistress. I have much yet to learn."

The Mistress's hand relaxed, her touch grew gentle, caressing. "Your time will be soon, Melisande."

"No, Mistress, do not say so," Melisande said, truly grieved. "You will be with us many years—"

The Mistress's smile grew sad, poignant. She shook her head. "We are always given to know our time, Melisande. So it will be with you, when your hour comes."

The Mistress gave Melisande's hand a brisk pat. "Still, that hour will not come today. Now we must prepare to meet our foe. Go do your duty, Daughter. I will take up mine. And remember, as you can see the dragon, so he can use his magic to see you. Do not let him intimidate you."

The Mistress gave a gesture of dismissal. Melisande bowed her way out and the Mistress shut the door behind her.

Melisande paused a moment in the fragrant darkness. As she closed her eyes and prayed silently to the Mistress for courage, the thought came to her that soon she would have no one to pray to. She would be the Mistress and all prayers would come to her. The thought was startling, daunting. She wondered why it had never occurred to her until that moment.

"Probably because I assumed the Mistress must live forever."

Her prayer ended suddenly, half-spoken. If her time to be a goddess was coming soon, she had best get used to acting on her own.

She pulled the bell rope to alert the guards to throw open the bronze doors. Blinking in the bright sunlight, she drew in a deep breath of fresh air. The warriors had manned the battlements that ran along the tops of all four walls. Other warriors were carrying the last of the children to safety. Melisande saw the little girls clinging to the warriors, their arms clasped around them tightly, their sleep-drenched eyes wide with the novelty of it all, and she smiled at them reassuringly. The "cows" followed closely, soothing those children who were fearful, telling them to pray to the Mistress.

The members of the Sisterhood were waiting outside to be admitted to the Sanctuary. At Melisande's nod, they filed past her, out of the sun, into the darkness. They wore their white robes, their cowls cast over their heads, their eyes lowered, their hands clasped in prayer.

Absorbed in their prayers, they did not speak to Melisande, nor did she speak to them. She continued on her way, hastening back to the Chamber of the Eye. As she passed out the wicket gate, she saw Bellona, walking the battlements, inspecting every warrior, making certain that all were ready. Glancing down, Bellona caught sight of Melisande and the two shared a smile and a loving glance, then each went back to her duties.

Walking the path in the sunlight, Melisande looked back at that little girl, who had summoned the magic in the darkness. She looked back at the little girl and her self-doubt vanished. She sent her blessing to that far distant child, and went with confidence to face the dragon.

Copyright © 2003 by Margaret Weis

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Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Margaret Weis

Paul Goat Allen: How thrilling was it to be approached by Tor, arguably the biggest fish in the fantasy publishing pond, and asked to create and develop a new series?

Margaret Weis: It was such a shock that it took a while for it to sink in. I remember being very calm and businesslike on the phone, talking to the editor. When the call finished, the thought came to me, I'm doing a series for Tor! Wow! Tor! And I started calling my friends, shouting into the phone, "I'm doing a series for Tor!" It was fantastic.

PGA: Who came up with the concept of Dragonvald, a world of humans that is secretly ruled and manipulated by godlike dragons? Was it originally Tor's concept or yours? And how is this realm distinct from others you've worked in?

MW: My editor at Tor came up with the idea of a parliament of dragons. I thought that was very cool. The rest of the world and how it worked evolved from there. This realm is different from others I've worked with because it deals with only humans. No elves, dwarves, etc. It is fantastic, but the fantasy element creeps in slowly. There is a much more real-world feel.

PGA: While reading Mistress of Dragons, I couldn't help but think of the story line as a multilevel game of chess. While Draconas and King Edward are searching for a way into Seth, Draconas thinks: "You are neither child nor fool, Edward. You are a pawn. A small and insignificant piece in a very large game." So Edward is a pawn to Draconas, who in turn is a pawn to the Parliament of Dragons. How difficult was it to formulate this multilayered story, and how did it differ from writing other novels?

MW: I really enjoy writing multilevel stories. Life itself is multilevel, and I try to make my stories reflective of real life, so that those reading them can say to themselves, I understand! I've been there myself! As to formulating the story, it began to take on a life of its own, which is very exciting. I gave it direction, but then something happened that I didn't expect but which turned out to be perfectly logical, as if I'd been thinking of it all along. Which maybe I was, subconsciously.

PGA: I've read in a recent interview that you once wrote a novel in 48 hours (with Dragon magazine editor Roger Moore, under the pseudonym Susan Lawson)! I was impressed by Ray Bradbury finishing Fahrenheit 451 in 10 days, but 48 hours must be some kind of record! How long did it take you to write Mistress of Dragons?

MW: We had fun with that 48-hour novel, which neither of us wanted to take credit for. That's why we invented poor Susan (who is now working as a topless dancer in New Orleans!). Mistress took about nine months. I not only needed to invent an entirely new world, with all that entails (including laws of magic), but I wanted to really take my time with this book and craft it as carefully as I could.

PGA: Of the more than 50 novels you've written, which ones are you most proud of, and why?

MW: Ah, that's like asking a mother which child she loves best! I like all of them for different reasons. And of course my favorite is the one I'm currently working on, which is the sequel to Mistress of Dragons.

PGA: While Mistress of Dragons was a supremely entertaining fantasy (I couldn't put it down and read it in one sitting), the explosive cliff-hanger of sorts at the conclusion sets the stage for what should be a great series. Please, can you give me a hint as to what will transpire in the second book in this series? Is there as tentative title and publication date for the second book?

MW: Thank you! The second book is The Dragon's Son, and you'll have to check with Tor as to the pub date. The third book is called The Master of Dragons. As to a hint about the second book, I think you can guess that from the title!

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 25 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2013

    Read twice and its awesome

    Best book ever must read i read it twicr and it still didn't get old.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2012

    Great

    Heart wrenching

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2007

    new world old flavor

    weis does it again... less heros in the plot than chronicles... the author took the length of this book to dive into the hero's personalities... twist and turned the plot to keep the reader guessing the out come and finished with a bang...what's gonna happen in the next book...???... having a little over threehundred pages... i wish it was longer for the price$$$... i'll be buying the next in this trilogy... 'keep yer head towards the skies,and someday the dragons will return.' - dan

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2007

    A Great Dragon Read!

    I purchase a great many bargain books especially when they begin a series. This book I found remarkable. There is some violence which I would prefer not be there but the story and relationships are very interesting. All in all I do recommend this book and the two books that follow simply because the story line is good.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2005

    Freelance Reviewer for Midwest Book Review

    I enjoy reading all genres of books including fantasy fiction. I picked this book because I had never read one of Weis's books and she is a popular choice among fantasy fiction readers. Weis writes well but this title is for adults. I mention this because I know sometimes she writes for juvenile/young adults. There are subtle hints of lesbianism and rape in MISTRESS OF DRAGONS but these events only take up a paragraph here and there, nothing that involves pages of detail. The society and world Weis has created is interesting. Dragons are intelligent with powerful dragon magic and they try to stay away from humans. However, the story centers around a dragon who breaks the dragon laws and creates a secret society where humans don't realize they are being used. MISTRESS OF DRAGONS is book one of a new series. A. D. Tarbox, author of ALREADY ASLEEP (Oct. 2006)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2005

    fantastic

    This book had me hooked, I finished it in 5 days. I simply could not put it down, I was minutely dissapointed in the end, however I desperately need the next 2 installments. Margaret is awesome, keep writing sweetheart. I hope when I am finished writing my fantasy novel it will be half as good as this was.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2005

    I love this

    Ok ya'll know me I LOVE my books. Now when I say something about books I know what I'm talking about, so pay attention: THIS BOOK IS GREAT!!! I read it once, stoped thought, read it again and got more that I missed the first time. I'm an avid fan of Weis but this is one of her best. I know that the next one's gana be great.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2005

    A promising start

    Mistress of Dragons is a solid effort by a master of the genre. Fantasy fans looking for an entertaining and quick paced story will not be disappointed. Weis includes enough novelty and plot twits to keep readers interested to the very end. Judging from the first installment, the Dragonvarld trilogy will be a successful debut for Weis as a solo author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2004

    Great Start to a good Series!

    I have never read any of Margaret's books. This book was good no dougbt about it. I think it builds the story line the way a book should. Not to much detail wasted, but enough thrown in to keep you going in the story. The book is well written, giving you enough to stay focused on. I would read the book if I were you. I think it's a great story that keeps you guessing. I have just read the second book, The Dragon's Son, and it too is a great book, even better then the first.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2005

    Good beginning, leaves you wanting more...

    Very excellent beginning for a series, I just hope Maragret keeps the pace. The characters are very well written, on par with both Mercedes Lackey and Anne Bishop.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2004

    Worst book I ever read!

    The book had no plot, the characters were the only element that got me through it. Nothing got accomplished, no issues were resolved. And it was a little on the nasty side.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2003

    Mistress of Dragons 4 Stars, Not Quite ERAGON Level

    This was my first experience reading M. Weis and I can tell you it will not be the last. Dragons seem to be the 'in' thing this year. The book is a little slow in the beginning, but gradually gains momentum. Great characters from Melisande, Edward, and Draconas. Nice twist and turns are throughout the story. The Ending will definitely leave you wanting to get to the next book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2003

    FIRST-RATE READING OF THIS FANTASY

    Gigi Marceau-Clarke invests her reading of this engrossing fantasy with an other worldly charm and suspenseful pacing that makes for compelling listening. The first in a planned epic trilogy, Mistress of Dragons pits dragons against humans for control of the world. According to the laws of the Parliament of Dragons, it is verboten for a dragon to kill a human being and dragons must refrain from any traffic in humanity's daily doings. As we all know, there are always those who disobey laws. In this case, the evil dragon not only doesn't abide by law but entertains grandiose ideas of conquering the world. Can his vicious plotting be curbed by a Mistress of Dragons who has had little experience in such matters? Award winning author Margaret Weis (Dragonlance, Darksword and Death Gate) well knows her subject, and presents her imaginative tale filled to the brim with legerdemain and dark doings. A treat for fantasy aficionados!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2003

    Great Book

    I read the book and it was great. It kept me interested and wanting more. I recommend this book to everyone. I can't wait for the 2nd and 3rd.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2003

    Dragons Take a Downfall

    I loved all of Margaret Weis's Dragonlance books, but this one truly falls under the category of one of her lesser sought after titles. It has a good character outline, however the story line could have been worked on a little bit, but i suppose like all of the dragonlance books, this is a title that falls more under the true 'fantasy' titles. My favorite fantasy titles are the sword of truth series, mainly because its alot easier to relate to them as in a real life situation, however the titles by margaret weis, although inventive, almost seem to have to many situations that are difficult to place yourself in, to difficult to really 'feel' the story, now i like i said i loved the dragonlance novels, but this one i could say i would should have read a chapter or two in the store, instead of going for just the author's name.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2003

    Awesome

    Best book this year!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    soaring sword and sorcery fantasy

    Dragons rule much of the world though they do so secretly with human props serving as monarchs and much of the enslaved race unaware of their existence. Perhaps the only exception is the isolated mountainous matriarchal nation of Seth where the Mistress of Dragons rules. The current Mistress is near death and her chosen replacement Melisande waits her turn to rule the nation and keep its people safe from dragons, last spotted two decades ago. Melisande will do her duty, but prefers her current lifestyle in the amazonian monastery living with her lover. <P>However, King Edward of Idlswylde turns to Draconas for help with a dragon causing death and destruction. Draconas advises the monarch that his only hope reside among the amazons in Seth and he will personally go there. However, Draconas, a dragon in human garb, has his own agenda using Edward as a pawn so he can complete his mission as a member of the ruling Parliament of Dragons to find the law breaking renegade. When Melisande and Draconas meet, the world will never be the same. <P>MISTRESS OF DRAGONS is an exciting opening tale that demonstrates Margaret Weis¿ abilities to make a world governed mostly by dragons seem real. The story line is fast-paced, loaded with action, and filled with strong charcaters of both genders. Several twists add to the fun of a soaring sword and sorcery fantasy. <P>Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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