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Priestess of the WhiteAge of the Five Trilogy Book 1
By Trudi Canavan
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Trudi Canavan
All right reserved.
Though Danjin Spear had entered Jarime's Temple on several occasions before, today he felt as if he were arriving for the first time. In the past he had visited on behalf of others or in order to perform minor services as a translator. This time was different; this time he was here to begin what he hoped was the most prestigious job of his career.
No matter where this led him, even if he failed or his duties proved tedious or unpleasant, this day would be imprinted on his memory forever. He found himself taking more notice of his surroundings than he usually did -- perhaps in order to memorize them for future reflection. Perhaps only because I'm so anxious, he thought, this journey feels as if it's taking forever.
A platten had been sent for him. The small two-wheeled vehicle rocked gently in time with the gait of the arem pulling it, slowly passing other vehicles, servants and soldiers, as well as rich men and women strolling about. Danjin bit his lip and resisted asking the man perched in the small driver's seat to urge the docile creature into a faster pace. All of the Temple servants had a quiet dignity that discouraged most people from ordering them about. Perhaps this was because their demeanor reminded one of priests and priestesses, and one certainly didn't order them about.
They were nearing the end of a long, wide road. Large two- and three-story houses lined both sides, a contrast to the jumble of apartments, shops and warehouses that made up most of the city. Houses on Temple Road were so expensive that only the most wealthy could afford them. Though Danjin was a member of one of the wealthiest families in Jarime, none of his relatives lived here. They were traders and had as much interest in the Temple and religion as they had in the market and their dinner: a basic necessity not worth making a fuss over, unless there was wealth to be made from it.
Danjin thought differently, and had for as long as he could remember. Value could be measured in things other than gold, he believed. Things like loyalty to a good cause, law, a civilized code of behavior, art, and the pursuit of knowledge. All things which his father believed could be bought or ignored.
The platten reached the White Arch that spanned the entrance to the Temple and relief carvings of the five gods loomed over Danjin. Grooves filled with gold did a pretty job of depicting the glowing light that spilled from them when they took their visible forms. I know what Father would say about this: If money doesn't matter to the gods, why isn't their Temple made from sticks and clay?
The platten continued through the arch and the full glory of the Temple appeared. Danjin sighed with appreciation. He had to admit he was glad it wasn't made of sticks and clay. To his left was the Dome, an enormous half-sphere in which ceremonies were held. High arches around its base allowed access to the inside, and gave the impression that the Dome was floating just above the ground. Inside the Dome was the Altar, where the White communed with the gods. Danjin had not seen it, but perhaps in his new role he would gain the opportunity.
Beside the Dome stood the White Tower. The tallest building ever to have existed, it appeared to stretch up to the clouds. It didn't, of course. Danjin had been in the highest rooms and knew the clouds were far out of reach. The illusion must make a strong impression on visitors, however. He could see the benefits of impressing and humbling both commoner and foreign ruler.
To the right of the Tower lay the Five Houses, a large hexagonal building that housed the priesthood. Danjin had never entered it and probably never would. While he respected the gods and their followers, he had no desire to become a priest. At fifty-one years of age he was too old to be giving up some of his bad habits. And his wife would never have approved.
Then again, she might like the idea. He smiled to himself. She's always complaining I mess up her house and plans when I'm home.
A generous spread of open land surrounded the Temple buildings. Paved paths and garden beds had been laid out in patterns of circles within circles. The circle was the sacred symbol of the Circle of Gods, and some of the ways it had been incorporated into the Temple made Danjin wonder if the original designers and architects had been demented fanatics. Did they need to decorate the communal toilets with circular designs, for instance?
The platten rolled ever closer to the Tower. Danjin's heart was beating a little too fast now. White-clad priests and priestesses strode back and forth, a few noting his arrival and nodding politely, as they probably did to anyone as richly dressed as he. The platten came to a halt beside the Tower and Danjin climbed out. He thanked the driver, who nodded once before urging the arem into motion again.
Taking a deep breath, Danjin turned to face the Tower entrance. Heavy columns supported a wide arch. He moved inside. Magical lights within revealed the entire ground floor of the Tower to be a densely columned hall. Here, gatherings were held and important visitors entertained. Since the White were the rulers of Hania, as well as heads of the Circlian religion, the Temple was as much palace as religious center. Rulers of other lands, their ambassadors and other significant personages congregated here on important occasions, or visited to negotiate political matters. This was a unique situation; in all other lands the priesthood was secondary to the ruling power.
Excerpted from Priestess of the White by Trudi Canavan Copyright © 2006 by Trudi Canavan. Excerpted by permission.
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