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Daughter of the Empire

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Daughter of the Empire

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Author: Raymond E. Feist
Janny Wurts
Publisher: Doubleday, 1987
Series: The Empire Trilogy: Book 1

1. Daughter of the Empire
2. Servant of the Empire
3. Mistress of the Empire

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: Magical Realism
High Fantasy
Heroic Fantasy
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Synopsis

Magic and murder engulf the realm of Kelewan. Fierce warlords ignite a bitter blood feud to enslave the empire of Tsuranuanni. While in the opulent Imperial courts, assassins and spy-master plot cunning and devious intrigues against the rightful heir. Now Mara, a young, untested Ruling lady, is called upon to lead her people in a heroic struggle for survival.

But first she must rally an army of rebel warriors, form a pact with the alien cho-ja, and marry the son of a hated enemy. Only then can Mara face her most dangerous foe of all--in his own impregnable stronghold.

An epic tale of adventure and intrigue. Daughter of the Empire is fantasy of the highest order by two of the most talented writers in the field today.


Excerpt

ONE

LADY

The priest struck the gong.

The sound reverberated off the temple's vaulted domes, splendid with brightly colored carvings. The solitary note echoed back and forth, diminishing to a remembered tone, a ghost of sound.

Mara knelt, the cold stones of the temple floor draining the warmth from her. She shivered, though not from chill, then glanced slightly to the left, where another initiate knelt in a pose identical to her own, duplicating Mara's movements as she lifted the white head covering of a novice of the Order of Lashima, Goddess of the Inner Light. Awkwardly posed with the linen draped like a tent above her head, Mara impatiently awaited the moment when the headdress could be lowered and tied. She had barely lifted the cloth and already the thing dragged at her arms like stone weights! The gong sounded again. Reminded of the goddess's eternal presence, Mara inwardly winced at her irreverent thoughts. Now, of all times, her attention must not stray. Silently she begged the goddess's forgiveness, pleading nerves==fatigue and excitement combined with apprehension. Mara prayed to the Lady to guide her to the inner peace she so fervently desired.

The gong chimed again, the third ring of twenty-two, twenty for the gods, one for the Light of Heaven, and one for the imperfect children who now waited to join in the service of the Goddess of Wisdom of the Upper Heaven. At seventeen years of age, Mara prepared to renounce the temporal world, like the girl at her side who==in another nineteen chimings of the gong==would be counted her sister, though they had met only two weeks before.

Mara considered her sister-to-be: Ura was a foul-tempered girl from a clanless but wealthy family in Lash Province while Mara was from an ancient and powerful family, the Acoma. Ura's admission to the temple was a public demonstration of family piety, ordered by her uncle, the self-styled family Lord, who sought admission into any clan that would take his family. Mara had come close to defying her father to join the order. When the girls had exchanged histories at their first meeting, Ura had been incredulous, then almost angry that the daughter of a powerful Lord should take eternal shelter behind the walls of the order. Mara's heritage meant clan position, powerful allies, an array of well-positioned suitors, and an assured good marriage to a son of another powerful house. Her own sacrifice, as Ura called it, was made so that later generations of girls in her family would have those things Mara chose to renounce. Not for the first time Mara wondered if Ura would make a good sister of the order. Then, again not for the first time, Mara questioned her own worthiness for the Sisterhood.

The gong sounded, deep and rich. Mara closed her eyes a moment, begging for guidance and comfort. Why was she still plagued with doubts? After eighteen more chimes, family, friends, and the familiar would be forever lost. All her past life would be put behind, from earliest child's play to a noble daughter's concern over her family's role within the Game of the Council, that never-ending struggle for dominance which ordered all Tsurani life. Ura would become her sister, no matter the differences in their heritage, for within the Order of Lashima none recognized personal honor or family name. There would remain only service to the goddess, through chastity and obedience.

The gong rang again, the fifth stroke. Mara peeked up at the altar atop the dais. Framed beneath carved arches, six priests and priestesses knelt before the statue of Lashima, her countenance unveiled for the initiation. Dawn shone through the lancet windows high in the domes, the palest glow reaching like fingers through the half-dark temple. The touch of sunrise seemed to caress the goddess, softening the jewel-like ceremonial candles that surrounded her. How friendly the Lady looked in morning's blush, Mara thought. The Lady of Wisdom gazed down with a half-smile on her chiseled lips, as if all under her care would be loved and protected, finding inner peace. Mara prayed this would be true. The only priest not upon his knees again rang the gong. Metal caught the sunlight, a splendid burst of gold against the dark curtain that shrouded the entrance to the inner temple. Then, as the dazzling brilliance faded, the gong rang again.

Fifteen more times it would be struck. Mara bit her lip, certain the kind goddess would forgive a momentary lapse. Her thoughts were like flashing lights from broken crystals, dancing about here and there, never staying long in one place. I'm not very good material for the Sisterhood, Mara confessed, staring up at the statue. Please have patience with me, Lady of the Inner Light. Again she glanced at her companion; Ura remained still and quiet, eyes closed. Mara determined to imitate her companion's behavior outwardly, even if she couldn't find the appropriate calm within. The gong sounded once more.

Mara sought that hidden center of her being, her wal, and strove to put her mind at rest. For a few minutes she found herself successful. Then the beat of the gong snatched her back to the present. Mara shifted her weight slightly, rejecting irritation as she tried to ease her aching arms. She fought an urge to sigh. The inner calm taught by the sisters who had schooled her through her novitiate again eluded her grasp, though she had labored at the convent for six months before being judged worthy of testing here in the Holy City by the priests of the High Temple.

Again the gong was struck, as bold a call as the horn that had summoned the Acoma warriors into formation. How brave they all had looked in their green enameled armor, especially the officers with their gallant plumes, on the day they left to fight with the Warlord's forces. Mara worried over the progress of the war upon the barbarian world, where her father and brother fought. Too many of the family's forces were committed there. The clan was split in its loyalty within the High Council, and since no single family clearly dominated, bloody politics bore down heavily upon the Acoma. The families of the Hadama Clan were united in name only, and a betrayal of the Acoma by distant cousins who sought Minwanabi favor was not outside the realm of possibility. Had Mara a voice in her father's counsel, she would have urged a separation from the War Party, even perhaps an alliance with the Blue Wheel Party, who feigned interest only in commerce while they quietly worked to balk the power of the Warlord...."

Mara frowned. Again her mind had been beguiled by worldly concerns. She apologized to the goddess, then pushed away thoughts of the world she was leaving behind.

Mara peeked as the gong rang again. The stone features of the goddess now seemed set in gentle rebuke; virtue began with the individual, she reminded. Help would come only to those who truly searched for enlightenment. Mara lowered her eyes.

The gong reverberated and through the dying shiver of harmonics another sound intruded, a disturbance wholly out of place. Sandals scuffed upon stone in the antechamber, accompanied by the dull clank of weapons and armor. Outside the curtain an attending priest challenged in a harsh whisper, "Stop, warrior! You may not enter the inner temple now! It is forbidden!"

Mara stiffened. A chilling prescience passed through her. Beneath the shelter of the tented headcloth, she saw the priests upon the dais rise up in alarm. They turned to face the intruder, and the gong missed its beat and fell silent.

"The High Father Superior moved purposefully toward the curtain, his brow knotted in alarm. Mara shut her eyes tightly. If only she could plunge the outside world into darkness as easily, then no one would be able to find her. But the sound of footfalls ceased, replaced by the High Father Superior's voice. "What cause have you for this outrage, warrior! You violate a most holy rite."

A voice rang out. "We seek the Lady of the Acoma!"

The Lady of the Acoma. Like a cold knife plunged into the pit of her stomach, the words cut through Mara's soul. That one sentence forever changed her life. Her mind rebelled, screaming denial, but she willed herself to remain calm. Never would she shame her ancestors by a public display of grief. She controlled her voice as she slowly rose to her feet. "I am here, Keyoke."

As one, the priests and priestesses watched the High Father Superior cross to stand before Mara. The embroidered symbols on his robes of office flashed fitfully as he beckoned to a priestess, who hastened to his side. Then he looked into Mara's eyes and read the contained pain hidden there. "Daughter, it is clear Our Mistress of Wisdom has ordained another path for you. Go with her love and in her grace, Lady of the Acoma." He bowed slightly.

Mara returned his bow, then surrendered her head covering to the priestess. Oblivious to Ura's sigh of envy, she turned at last to face the bearer of those tidings which had changed her life.
Just past the curtain, Keyoke, Force Commander of the Acoma, regarded his mistress with weary eyes. He was a battle-scarred old warrior, erect and proud despite forty years of loyal service. He stood poised to step to the girl's side, provide a steadying arm, perhaps even shield her from public view should the strain prove too much.

Copyright © 1987 by Raymond E. Feist

Copyright © 1987 by Janny Wurts


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