The Mantle of Kendis-Dai: A Starshield Novel (Starshield, Book 1)

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9780679452782: The Mantle of Kendis-Dai: A Starshield Novel (Starshield, Book 1)
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Enter a universe of wonders and adventure, where ancient's hold the key to civilization...Starshield, from the bestselling creators of the popular worlds of Dragonlance "RM" and the Death Gate Cycle!

The truth is out there...and discovering the truth is the grand quest of the Omnet, the organization that is the backbone of galactic civilization. For it is the Omnet's information that drives the governments, the economies, and the cultures of myriad worlds.

But someone is sowing seeds of disaster amidst the worlds of the Omnet and threatening civilization with collapse. The only hope to stem the tide of rebellion is an ancient artifact: the Mantle of Kendis-dai. No one knows if the Mantle really exists. No one knows what the Mantle really is. But legend tells that whoever wears the Mantle will be gifted with all knowledge. The Mantle is Power -- and Merinda Neskat of the Omnet is determined to find it.

Unfortunately, the key to her quest is a lost and bewildered crew of human astronauts, bound to follow Merinda in a dangerous race against time and deadly enemy search of a mysterious world which holds the secret of ancient wisdom that could save them -- or disrupt the path of civilization forever!

Dragonlance Chronicles, Volume 1: Dragons of Autumn Twilight; Volume 2: Dragons of Winter Night; and Volume 3: Dragons of Spring Dawning, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, are also available from Random House AudioBooks.

Kate Burton has appeared in such films as August and Life with Mikey. Her theater work includes roles on Broadway in Doonesbury and the revival of Stephen Sondheim's Company. She has previously read Intensity and Spring Collection for Random House AudioBooks.

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About the Author:

Margaret Weis was born and raised in Independence, Missouri. She attended the University of Missouri, Columbia, graduating in 1970 with a BA in creative writing. In 1983, Weis was hired as book editor at TSR, Inc., producers of the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game. Here she met game designer Tracy Hickman and the two teamed up to write the bestselling Dragonlance novels. Weis has two children, David and Elizabeth Baldwin. Weis and husband Don Perrin live in a converted barn in Wisconsin with two collie dogs, Laddie and Robbie; a Sheltie, Jo-jo; and two cats, Nickolai Mouse-slayer and Motley Tatters.

Tracy Raye Hickman was born in Salt Lake City. He currently resides in a large Victorian home he built for his wife and four children in the tall mountain pines of Flagstaff, Arizona. He has co-authored with Margaret Weis four New York Times bestselling series, including the Death Gate Cycle and the Dragonlance series which have more than eleven million copies in print and has published his own solo works as well.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One: Cascade

Merinda Neskat stepped carefully about the slick rocks, the cool mists swirling about her cheeks in the evening. It was wet, to be sure, and soon she knew that her hair would be heavy with the mists, her thick curls struggling to maintain their shape against the clinging dew. Her clothing was already soaking through--the promise of a cool later when she returned to the dryer climates higher up. But for now, with the air nearly as wet as she was and dancing around her in gray forms, she was content with the feeling of the water on her bare arms and legs. "Immodest," she could hear the Dex Libris, her most immediate superior intone in that sepulcher voice that was her hallmark. "An Atis Librae of the Omnet should command more respect in her demeanor. How do you hope to get off the rock and make a career for yourself if you do not respect yourself enough to allow others to respect you."

Merinda choked off the giggle that the thought elicited and stood suddenly erect. "Yes, Libris Gildesh," she said in her most mocking serious tone, "I shall uphold the honor of the Omnet even in my sleep."The truth was that she was serious--far too serious for many of those who worked around her. Merinda believed that she was saving the universe,in her own way and in her own small part. She openly disdained the others around her who did not understand the importance of 'recovering the past,preserving the present and protecting the future' as the slogan of her order maintained. She rarely socialized at least as far as most of her coworkers were concerned. But, as Merinda reminded herself, she didn't need to. She nearly caught herself giggling again at the thought, kicked a curtain of water into the air before her with her bare feet, and once more began picking her way around the rocks.

She loved it here. Her own home world was wet like this though not nearly so constantly warm. That planet that had been the first place she knew had seasons--a concept which the local inhabitants found droll at best and frighteningly incomprehensible at worst. The warmth of the mists pounding through the air over the surging water of the rocks was filled with life and comfort; a safe haven from the doldrums of her other existence. The monastery was cold despite the heat, cold in a way that no sun could ever change. It was an austere place and some thought that it suited her--but then, they didn't really know her did they?

The outcropping of rock was coming to an end with a great pillar of stone jutting from the frothing water. With practiced ease, Merinda reached upfor the hand hold. A moment's breath. A kick of her shining legs in the filtered light and she swung around the stone to its far side.

Merinda caught her breath, daring not to breath. The sight always struck the wind from her, as her mother used to say, a vision of surpassing beauty and wonder. It had taken her nearly an hour to walk the path to this spot yet the time spent and the exertions of the way vanished in the moment.

The Denali Falls of Brishan V were once a religious secret held to be a vision which only the local priests could full understand or appreciate.The waters gathered their strength from the high mountains of the Krevish mountain range, a place where the ancient gods of this world were held to have lived under blankets of the sky. The tears of the goddess Rhishan,weeping at the death of her three boys at the hands of their cruel uncle Umbleh, were said to be the source of the three rivers that converged at the top of Denali canyon and formed the great falls that cascaded with a deafening thunder nearly a thousand feet into the pool at its feet. Yet the beauty of the falls was not found merely in the beauty of its height nor in the ancient monastery whose buttresses arched magnificently over the confluence of all three of the rivers. The falls were made special by the Klenith vines that threatened to choke the waters at the fall's crest.The twisting vines were hollow, their nature allowing the water itself to flow through their tubing. The effect was doubly beneficial. The hollow conduits of the Klenith vines filtered the water for sustenance, thus purifying it as it fell through its tangled shape and, better still, its twisting forms wove the pure water into braids of shimmering elegance in it's cascade. Merinda had, as always, timed her arrival well, for the sun D'rak was settling for the night at the edge of the plains far below. Quite suddenly, it seemed,Merinda's world became suffused with salmon-colored light as the cascades and mists at the base of the falls were suffused with the twilight glow at the end of another day.

Merinda stood ankle deep on a sand bar she had come to think of as her own and felt all of it become a part of her again. This was life, she thought,this is sustenance. I need so very little to bring me the joy that I want out of life. I'll make my own way and endure the pain and the loneliness and the frustration so long as there is a place like this that I can call home. I'll travel wherever destiny takes me so long as there is always someone, some singular one, who is home awaiting me.

The dark figure moved behind her, nearly invisible in the billowing obscurity of the thrashing water. Footfalls without sound. No wasted movement. As the figure moved toward her it was revealed as a tall man, his deep gray tailored clothing covering him from head to foot. The dark cloak he wore over it all was heavy from the mists and did not billow as was its custom.Her back was toward him as he closed the distance between them, coolly and efficiently, his large gray gloves reaching for her.

Merinda stood relaxed, gazing up into the woven cascade of the falls.

Her eyes flashed sideways.

Suddenly Merinda stepped backward, both hands moving up to grasp one of the threatening arms. She thrust her hip into the approaching man's own waist, attempting to leverage the attacker over her.

The man reversed, stepping sideways and twisting her arm back around behind her. She cried out from the pain but in the same moment hooked one of her feet behind the ankle of her attacker and shoved herself bodily toward him with her free leg.

They both tumbled backward against a rock outcropping at the edge of the beach. The gray man's breath rushed from him in a sudden "oof", his grip relaxed slightly from the impact. Merinda wrenched her hand free, kicked the man into the rock again. As he rebounded unsteadily, she grabbed him by both hands, fell backward into the sand and planted both feet into his stomach.

The dark robes fluttered over her as she kicked and released him. The tall man sailed head down over her, his arms flailing in the thick air as he unceremoniously fell back-first into the shallow waters at the beach's edge.The deluge of his impact had not yet hit the ground when she was already rolled to her feet and leaping for him, her hand drawing her weapon from her belt as she moved. The final droplets were just hitting the water's surface when she pressed one knee against his chest and leveled the weapon's sites between her assailant's eyes.

His eyes. Those granite gray eyes.

He sputtered as a wave from the pool washed over his face, spraying water and coughing to clear his mouth and nose.

Merinda laughed. "Oh, great and powerful Vestis Novus I see that you have once again proven your superiority to us lowly Atis Librae. Will you surrender to me now?"

The hood fell back from the prone man as he craned his head up out of the water, straining to keep his face above the surface. With the action came an explosion of black curled hair above a strong face. It may have been considered to heavy in the jaw for some people's tastes, Merinda reflected-- certainly that was the opinion of Librae Brenai, the Omnet coworker with whom she had roomed ever since they had first met for their initiate training on Netprime over two years ago. Kiria Brenai had quite firmly stated her opinion that Queekat Shn'dar could break stone with his lantern jaw, and,for all Kiria knew, probably did.

Then, as Merinda watched, those gray eyes flashed at her and a wide smile spread across his strong, angular face. Those eyes, she knew, were for her; that smile, somehow her property. "I surrender, Mistress Librae," he spoke in a high, fluting voice, "to the honor of your order and its superior training."

Merinda's eyes went wide with mock disbelief, "What? Not to me?" Her knee pressed his chest down again, plunging his face momentarily beneath the small waves.

"Yes, yes," Queekat sputtered as he surfaced again half laughing,"I surrender to you."
Merinda laughed. She collapsed lovingly on top of him--nearly sending him back under water a third time--and then rolled with him back up onto the beach. "Oh, Kat, when I heard you were coming, I hoped you might remember this place--this one place that is more dear to me than any in all the creations."

"There are many more beautiful and terrible places in the stars than this one," Queekat shook his hair at her, spraying water into her squealing face.

"Not to me, you brute," she replied when at last she could. "We met here, you and I. This is our place, our private little universe so far from the worries of our professions or directors or . . ."

"Or the E'toris," Queekat continued for her. "Say, how is the old cliff-goat anyway?"

Merinda screwed her face into a belligerent look that was betrayed by the brightness of her eyes locked on his. She reached over with her cupped hand and splashed a small sheet of water in his general direction.

"Hey," he protested with little protest.

"Our E'toris Librae is fine, I believe and, as I am sure that you as ambassador and investigator for the Omnet are well aware, is not planetside presently."

"Oh, really?"


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