The Eight: A Novel

Mass Market Paperback | January 14, 1990


not yet rated|write a review
Computer expert Cat Velis is heading for a job to Algeria. Before she goes, a mysterious fortune teller warns her of danger, and an antique dealer asks her to search for pieces to a valuable chess set that has been missing for years...In the South of France in 1790 two convent girls hide valuable pieces of a chess set all over the world, because the game that can be played with them is too powerful....

Pricing and Purchase Info

$9.06 online
$9.99 list price (save 9%)
In stock online
Ships free on orders over $25
Prices may vary. why?
Please call ahead to confirm inventory.

From Our Editors

When two young women in France of 1790 discover the Montglane Chess Service in Montglane Abbey, they recognize its mystic ability to provide anyone playing it with unlimited power and desperately scatter its pieces around the world. But in 1972, computer expert Catherine "Cat" Velis is hired to recover the chess pieces--and is caught u...

From the Publisher

Computer expert Cat Velis is heading for a job to Algeria. Before she goes, a mysterious fortune teller warns her of danger, and an antique dealer asks her to search for pieces to a valuable chess set that has been missing for years...In the South of France in 1790 two convent girls hide valuable pieces of a chess set all over the worl...

From the Jacket

Computer expert Cat Velis is heading for a job to Algeria. Before she goes, a mysterious fortune teller warns her of danger, and an antique dealer asks her to search for pieces to a valuable chess set that has been missing for years...In the South of France in 1790 two convent girls hide valuable pieces of a chess set all over the worl...

Format:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:624 pages, 6.87 × 4.21 × 1.09 inPublished:January 14, 1990Publisher:Random House Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345366239

ISBN - 13:9780345366238

Look for similar items by category:


Rated 5 out of 5 by from unendingly fascinating This novel was interesting and perplexing, thought inducing and chill seeking. The different areas that Neville worked into the story were fantastic. History and mythology rule the day while adventure had me on the edge of my seat. This novel is fantastically and captivatingly written and plotted. The flipping back and forward from the past to the present allows readers to get to know a myriad of characters who are all important to the tale. The contrast between present day characters and those in the past allowed each to shine to their fullest. This novel may be long, but it was unendingly fascinating. I read it in a single day, unable to put it down. It definitely sets the bar for all novels in the genre. I can’t wait to delve further into the world created by this author. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
Date published: 2015-09-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Fire by Katherine Neville The Eight by Katherine Neville is a dazzlingly complex novel about the search for the legendary and mysterious Charlemange chess set called The Montglane Service reputed to give the owner untold power...the power to end Kings. There are two stories that run parallel to each other...that of Catherine Velis, New York, 1972, a computer expert working in a male dominated law firm who is sent to Algeria to consult for OPEC and Mireille de Remy, France, 1970, a novice of the Montglane Abbey who has been given a secret mission by the Abbess to conceal a number of the chess pieces of the service. Those who are in the hunt to acquire the chess service and the power it contains are said to be in The Game. Neville pulls into the story a very broad spectrum of ideas and philosophies...from the meaning of the zodiac, planets and elements to mathematics of the Fibonacci numbers and infinity to the significance and history of cultures and religious customs. Additional themes were absolute power or dictatorship versus freedom of choice or democracy...that the many can be more powerful than the one. I think it would take an entire essay to examine all the different themes within the novel. The Eight is a very long novel at just under 600 pages of small type on paperback format. It took me many sessions to read and I often had to set the book down to ponder clues and events. The book is about fifty-fifty the story of Catherine Velis versus Mireille de Remy. At the beginning of each chapter there is a quote or abstract about chess and/or life that represents the meaning of each chapter. In the book chess is defined as the ultimate game of strategy. Katherine Neville 'strategically' wrote and divided the plot of The Eight as a chess game. There are layers within layers of meaning about some of the ideas presented in the story...and games within games. There are very clever, intricate plot threads that eventually come back to their beginning (deliberate of Neville emphasizing infinity, eight, opposite yet parallel). The storyline at times was wildly dramatic although I found this appealing and often very imaginative, which kept me interested in reading the voluminous amount of pages. I had a handful of issues with the novel. One aspect that never made sense to me was why Valentine was given a chess piece to protect though she was the youngest, most immature, impressionable and vulnerable novice and not even central to the storyline. A woman named Catherine Grand was mentioned as the one who started The Game in the historical storyline but it was never clarified how or why and it did not make sense to me. The Eight is an amazing accomplishment of a novel. If you want an engrossing, complex, fascinating read look no further. My Rating: 4.5
Date published: 2009-06-14
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Long Winded This one was a bit long winded...i really felt as though it could have been wrapped up in fewer words. I did like the concept, the puzzle, the mixing of history with the 1970's. Of course it did help that my bookshelf of books waiting to be read was calling me...and so i raced through the last 100 pages so i could move on to something new.
Date published: 2009-02-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from How did the dog survive? Author Katherine Neville takes on a hefty challenge with this title. In a style similiar to Dan Brown she leads the reader through an intellectual thriller that weaves historical figures with characters from today. Catherine Velis, a computer programmer in 1973 (okay, so almost today) finds herself embroiled in a dangerous battle to achieve control of a powerful chess service that once belonged to Charlemagne. Neville uses the same tactics and Mosse and Guy Gavriel Kay's "Ysabel" when she mixes the current day story with that from 200 years ago. Catherine's story is interspersed with Mirelle's story from the time of the French Revolution as both characters find themselves involved in situations they never imagined for themselves. While the concept of the story was interesting it seemed like Neville relied on certain gimicks to carry the story along. Frequently she utilised the storyteller role to provide some sort of backstory to explain the history of the chess service. I enjoyed the story but found myself doubting the characters and the events on many occassions. Her inclusion of many historical characters from the French Revolution seemed overdone and the appearance of individuals such as Marat, Benedict Arnold, Bach and Catherine the Great made it seem like every notable person from history was somehow involved in this battle and subsequently Neville's narrative. I also had trouble swallowing the unbelievable luck that Catherine seemed to enjoy throughout her own search. Her knowledge seemed like she had prepared for a Jeopardy challenge on any topic that would remotely relate to the search, and this knowledge was complemented by the collection of geniuses she seemed to surround herself with. On top of this Cat and her allies seemed to be able to remarkably remove themselves from any hazard with the greatest of ease. It was sometimes rather like watching an action film where all of the villians are absolutely inept at using a gun whereas the hero is able to hit their target without difficulty. This was even the case when their enemies appeared to be the wrath of nature from the heat of the desert to the dangers of the ocean. In the end it seemed like Neville tired of trying to come to a happy solution for the story, and while the twist at the end was an actual surprise and refreshing, the resolution of Catherine's battle with her enemies was absurdly simplistic. In the end, I almost feel like Neville took on a larger task than she originally intended and by the final chapter she was just looking to write those final words to be done with the book. Unsurprisingly, that's rather how I approached reading the final chapters as well. This review makes it seem like I struggled through this book but I really didn't. It liked it, I just found problems with it as well. Now I am just debating over whether or not I will read the sequel.
Date published: 2008-11-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Satisfying and Fun Read Neville does a great job of making math fun. :o) While the book is about a mystery buried within a chess board, and the characters rely heavily on mathematics and formulae to solve it -- the reader doesn't need any expertise in those areas to enjoy it. Better writing than Da Vince Code and equally fascinating way of tying together historical characters and activities with a more modern plot line. Fascinating and fun, and well worth the few days it will take you to read it.
Date published: 2008-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read if you thought Dan Brown was good you will enjoy Katherine Neville even more. This book was published 20 years ago and at one point was on the top 10 list of must reads in Spain. Pick it up, you won't be sorry.
Date published: 2008-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This one has it all A story of intrigue set against a backdrop of history beginning with Charlemagne through the French Revolution, the Nazi's and beyond. Rich characters, great plot - just an amazing book. One of, if not my favourite book. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2007-11-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from don't bother It took me ages to read this book, I just could not get into it; but I struggled through and really wish I hadn’t. It could have been a decent book, but the writing is bad; long winded explanations, characters who know obscure historical/scientific things that no one 'just happens' to know, a jumble of characters who you never really care about, connections between characters/plots that don’t really make sense and plot twists that can be seen coming a mile away. I am kicking myself for reading all 608 pages.
Date published: 2007-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A favourite, even years later! Definitely one of the better novels I've ever read, this one is part thriller, part contemporary fantasy, and all good. Delving into the past with an alchemically potent chess board and its mystical abilities scattered by an midieval group of nuns, and then crossed with the present of a computing consultant lady who finds herself in the midst of an astonishingly complex game of cat-n-mouse, this book just grabs you and keeps you. This is the only Neville I've read, and I couldn't put it down. As the story in the past starts to bleed into the story of the present, it truly picks up in speed and tension, and the ultimate destination is absolutely stunning.
Date published: 2006-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A favourite even years later Definitely one of the better novels I've ever read, this one is part thriller, part contemporary fantasy, and all good. Delving into the past with an alchemically potent chess board and its mystical abilities scattered by an midieval group of nuns, and then crossed with the present of a computing consultant lady who finds herself in the midst of an astonishingly complex game of cat-n-mouse, this book just grabs you and keeps you. This is the only Neville I've read, and I couldn't put it down. As the story in the past starts to bleed into the story of the present, it truly picks up in speed and tension, and the ultimate destination is absolutely stunning.
Date published: 2006-07-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read - Fun and Fantasy filled. This was a gift, so I had not heard or read anything on this. After reading the first few sections, the book had me hooked. I loved it and found that it keep me into the story line. The novel left me wanting to read more and finish it as soon as I could. But, the book left me a bit disappointed in the large number of characters, however, the plot and story line were exceptionally done. Overall, the number of characters did nothing to diminish the enjoyment of this book.
Date published: 2006-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A book club pick I'm moving out of town and it's my last turn to pick a book for our book club. I racked my brain and finally remembered The Eight: A perfect parting gift to my friends in the book club. If you haven't yet read this book, you're in for a treat. This is sheer, self-indulgent fun that stretches the limits of your fantasies. This intelligent action adventure takes you through history, as well as through Europe, North Africa and New York City. If you liked Romancing the Stone, Indiana Jones, the DaVinci Code and the Illuminati, you'll love The Eight! It has it all.
Date published: 2005-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Engrossing Novel I loved this book. It was recommended to me by someone who knew that I had read and enjoyed both The Da Vinci Code and The Rule of Four. Having now read all three books, I can say that this is my favourite of the group. It engaged me from the beginning, right through to its gripping end. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great read.
Date published: 2004-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from SO Good!!!! This book was recommended to me by a friend and since reading it I have been busy recommending it to everyone I know who likes to read! I thought it was intelligent and very entertaining. I got so wrapped up in the story, I was actually turning down invitations out in order to keep reading!! Loved it!!
Date published: 2002-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favorite reads! I read this book several years ago but it remains one of my all time favorite stories. From the time of Charlemagne, to Napoleonic France, to present day, it is a page turner and I couldn't put it down. I think I will read it again.
Date published: 2000-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Eight Not many authors can create a best-seller on their first try, but Neville pulled it off. This book has everything -- ancient knowledge, faith, destruction, long-lived societies and the mysteries of alchemy. Neville mixed fiction and history so cleverly that the reader is plunged into fascinating possibilities. Some people have commented to me that it is a little slow-moving, but it remains one of my favourites!
Date published: 1999-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Eight Good story. Very detailed. Historically accurate. The only thing I did not enjoy was the constant back tracking and time shifts into the past between chapters, but I will say it was intertwined rather effectively. Otherwise, a pretty good read. Compares to such historical adventure writers as Umberto Eco, Christopher Hyde and Mark Frost.
Date published: 1999-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Eight Not many authors can create a best-seller on their first try, but Neville pulled it off. This book has everything -- ancient knowledge, faith, destruction, long-lived societies and the mysteries of alchemy. Neville mixed fiction and history so cleverly that the reader is plunged into fascinating possibilities. Some people have commented to me that it is a little slow-moving, but it remains one of my favourites!
Date published: 1998-12-14

Extra Content

Read from the Book

THE DEFENSECharacters tend to be either for or against the quest. If they assist it, they are idealized as simply gallant or pure; if they obstruct it, they are characterized as simply villainous or cowardly. Hence every typical character . . . tends to have his moral opposite confronting him, like black and white pieces in a chess game.–Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop FryeMontglane Abbey, FranceSpring 1790A FLOCK OF NUNS CROSSED THE ROAD, THEIR CRISP WIMPLESfluttering about their heads like the wings of large sea birds.As they floated through the large stone gates of the town,chickens and geese scurried out of their path, flapping andsplashing through the mud puddles. The nuns moved throughthe darkening mist that enveloped the valley each morningand, in silent pairs, headed toward the sound of the deep bellthat rang out from the hills above them.They called that spring le Printemps Sanglant, the BloodySpring. The cherry trees had bloomed early that year, longbefore the snows had melted from the high mountain peaks.Their fragile branches bent down to earth with the weightof the wet red blossoms. Some said it was a good omen thatthey had bloomed so soon, a symbol of rebirth after the longand brutal winter. But then the cold rains had come andfrozen the blossoms on the bough, leaving the valley buriedthick in red blossoms stained with brown streaks of frost.Like a wound congealed with dried blood. And this was saidto be another kind of sign.High above the valley, the Abbey of Montglane roselike an enormous outcropping of rock from the crest ofthe mountain. The fortresslike structure had remained un-touched by the outside world for nearly a thousand years. Itwas constructed of six or seven layers of wall built one ontop of the other. As the original stones eroded over the centuries,new walls were laid outside of old ones, with flyingbuttresses. The result was a brooding architectural melangewhose very appearance fed the rumors about the place. Theabbey was the oldest church structure standing intact inFrance, and it bore an ancient curse that was soon to bereawakened.As the dark-throated bell rang out across the valley, the remainingnuns looked up from their labors one by one, putaside their rakes and hoes, and passed down through thelong, symmetrical rows of cherry trees to climb the precipitousroad to the abbey.At the end of the long procession, the two young novicesValentine and Mireille trailed arm in arm, picking their waywith muddy boots. They made an odd complement to the orderlyline of nuns. The tall red-haired Mireille with her longlegs and broad shoulders looked more like a healthy farmgirl than a nun. She wore a heavy butcher’s apron over herhabit, and red curls strayed from beneath her wimple. Besideher Valentine seemed fragile, though she was nearly as tall.Her pale skin seemed translucent, its fairness accentuated bythe cascade of white-blond hair that tumbled about hershoulders. She had stuffed her wimple into the pocket of herhabit, and she walked reluctantly beside Mireille, kickingher boots in the mud.The two young women, the youngest nuns at the abbey,were cousins on their mothers’ side, both orphaned at anearly age by a dreadful plague that had ravaged France. Theaging Count de Remy, Valentine’s grandfather, had commendedthem into the hands of the Church, upon his deathleaving the sizable balance of his estate to ensure their care.The circumstance of their upbringing had formed an inseparablebond between the two, who were both burstingwith the unrestrained abundant gaiety of youth. The abbessoften heard the older nuns complain that this behavior wasunbecoming to the cloistered life, but she understood that itwas better to curb youthful spirits than to try to quench them.Then, too, the abbess felt a certain partiality to the orphanedcousins, a feeling unusual both to her personality andher station. The older nuns would have been surprised tolearn that the abbess herself had sustained from early childhoodsuch a bosom friendship, with a woman who had beenseparated from her by many years and many thousands ofmiles.Now, on the steep trail, Mireille was tucking some unrulywisps of red hair back under her wimple and tugging hercousin’s arm as she tried to lecture her on the sins of tardiness.“If you keep on dawdling, the Reverend Mother will giveus a penance again,” she said.Valentine broke loose and twirled around in a circle. “Theearth is drowning in spring,” she cried, swinging her armsabout and nearly toppling over the edge of the cliff. Mireillehauled her up along the treacherous incline. “Why must webe shut up in that stuffy abbey when everything out-of-doorsis bursting with life?”“Because we are nuns,” said Mireille with pursed lips,stepping up her pace, her hand firmly on Valentine’s arm.“And it is our duty to pray for mankind.” But the warm mistrising from the valley floor brought with it a fragrance soheavy that it saturated everything with the aroma of cherryblossoms. Mireille tried not to notice the stirrings this causedin her own body.“We are not nuns yet, thank God,” said Valentine. “We areonly novices until we have taken our vows. It’s not too late tobe saved. I’ve heard the older nuns whispering that there aresoldiers roaming about in France, looting all the monasteriesof their treasures, rounding up the priests and marching themoff to Paris. Perhaps some soldiers will come here and marchme off to Paris, too. And take me to the opera each night, anddrink champagne from my shoe!”“Soldiers are not always so very charming as you seem tothink,” observed Mireille. “After all, their business is killingpeople, not taking them to the opera.”“That’s not all they do,” said Valentine, her voice droppingto a mysterious whisper. They had reached the top of the hill,the where the road flattened out and widened considerably. Hereit was cobbled with flat paving stones and resembled thebroad thoroughfares one found in larger towns. On eitherside of the road, huge cypresses had been planted. Risingabove the sea of cherry orchards, they looked formal and forbiddingand, like the abbey itself, strangely out of place.“I have heard,” Valentine whispered in her cousin’s ear,“that the soldiers do dreadful things to nuns! If a soldiershould come upon a nun, in the woods, for example, he immediatelytakes a thing out of his pants and he puts it into thenun and stirs it about. And then when he has finished, the nunhas a baby!”“What blasphemy!” cried Mireille, pulling away fromValentine and trying to suppress the smile hovering abouther lips. “You are entirely too saucy to be a nun, I think.”“Exactly what I have been saying all along,” Valentine admitted.“I would far rather be the bride of a soldier than abride of Christ.”As the two cousins approached the abbey, they could seethe four double rows of cypresses planted at each entrance toform the sign of the crucifix. The trees closed in about themas they scurried along through the blackening mist. Theypassed through the abbey gates and crossed the large courtyard.As they approached the high wooden doors to the mainenclave, the bell continued to ring, like a death knell cuttingthrough the thick mist.Each paused before the doors to scrape mud from herboots, crossed herself quickly, and passed through the highportal. Neither glanced up at the inscription carved in crudeFrankish letters in the stone arch over the portal, but eachknew what it said, as if the words were engraved upon herheart:Cursed be He who bring theseWalls to EarhtThe King is checked by the Hand of God alone.Beneath the inscription the name was carved in largeblock letters, “Carolus Magnus.” He it was who was architectboth of the building and the curse placed upon thosewho would destroy it. The greatest ruler of the Frankish Empireover a thousand years earlier, he was known to all inFrance as Charlemagne. THE INTERIOR WALLS OF THE ABBEY WERE DARK, COLD, ANDwet with moss. From the inner sanctum one could hear thewhispered voices of the novitiates praying and the soft clickingof their rosaries counting off theAyes, Glorias, and PaterNosters.Valentine and Mireille hurried through the chapel asthe last of the novices were genuflecting and followed thetrail of whispers to the small door behind the altar where thereverend mother’s study was located. An older nun washastily shooing the last of the stragglers inside.Valentine andMireille glanced at each other and passed within.It was strange to be called to the abbess’s study in thismanner. Few nuns had ever been there at all, and then usuallyfor disciplinary action.Valentine, who was always being disciplined,had been there often enough. But the abbey bellwas used to convene all the nuns. Surely they could not all becalled at once to the reverend mother’s study?As they entered the large, low-ceilinged room, Valentineand Mireille saw that all the nuns in the abbey were indeedthere–more than fifty of them. Seated on rows of hardwooden benches that had been set up facing the Abbess’swriting desk, they whispered among themselves. Clearlyeveryone thought it was a strange circumstance, and thefaces that looked up as the two young cousins enteredseemed frightened. The cousins took their places in the lastrow of benches. Valentine clasped Mireille’s hand.“What does it mean?” she whispered.“It bodes ill, I think,” replied Mireille, also in a whisper.“The reverend mother looks grave. And there are two womenhere whom I have never seen.”At the end of the long room, behind a massive desk of polishedcherry wood, stood the abbess, wrinkled and leatheryas an old parchment, but still exuding the power of hertremendous office. There was a timeless quality in her bearingthat suggested she had long ago made peace with herown soul, but today she looked more serious than the nunshad ever seen her.Two strangers, both large-boned young women with bighands, loomed at either side of her like avenging angels. Onehad pale skin, dark hair, and luminous eyes, while the otherbore a strong resemblance to Mireille, with a creamy complexionand chestnut hair only slightly darker than Mireille’sauburn locks. Though both had the bearing of nuns, theywere not wearing habits, but plain gray traveling clothes ofnondescript nature.The abbess waited until all the nuns were seated and thedoor had been closed. When the room was completely silentshe began to speak in the voice that always reminded Valentineof a dry leaf being crumbled.“My daughters,” said the abbess, folding her hands beforeher, “for nearly one thousand years the Order of Montglanehas stood upon this rock, doing our duty to mankind andserving God. Though we are cloistered from the world, wehear the rumblings of the world’s unrest. Here in our smallcorner, we have received unfortunate tidings of late that maychange the security we’ve enjoyed so long. The two womenwho stand beside me are bearers of those tidings. I introduceSister Alexandrine de Forbin”–she motioned to the darkhairedwoman–”and Marie-Charlotte de Corday, who togetherdirect the Abbaye-aux-Dames at Caen in the northernprovinces. They have traveled the length of France in disguise,an arduous journey, to bring us a warning. I thereforebid you hark unto what they have to say. It is of the gravestimportance to us all.”The abbess took her seat, and the woman who had been introducedas Alexandrine de Forbin cleared her throat andspoke in a low voice so that the nuns had to strain to hear her.But her words were clear.“My sisters in God,” she began, “the tale we have to tell isnot for the faint-hearted. There are those among us whocame to Christ hoping to save mankind. There are those whocame hoping to escape from the world. And there are thosewho came against their will, feeling no calling whatever.” Atthis she turned her dark, luminous eyes directly upon Valentine,who blushed to the very roots of her pale blond hair.“Regardless what you thought your purpose was, it haschanged as of today. In our journey, Sister Charlotte and Ihave passed the length of France, through Paris and each villagein between. We have seen not only hunger but starvation.People are rioting in the streets for bread. There isbutchery; women carry severed heads on pikes through thestreets. There is rape, and worse. Small children are murdered,people are tortured in public squares and torn topieces by angry mobs . . .” The nuns were no longer quiet.Their voices rose in alarm as Alexandrine continued herbloody account.Mireille thought it odd that a woman of God could recountsuch a tale without blanching. Indeed, the speaker had notonce altered her low, calm tone, nor had her voice quaveredin the telling. Mireille glanced atValentine, whose eyes werelarge and round with fascination. Alexandrine de Forbinwaited until the room had quieted a bit, then continued.“It is now April. Last October the king and queen werekidnapped fromVersailles by an angry mob and forced to returnto the Tuilleries at Paris, where they were imprisoned.The king was made to sign a document, the ‘Declaration ofthe Rights of Man,’ proclaiming the equality of all men. TheNational Assembly in effect now controls the government;the king is powerless to intervene. Our country is beyondrevolution. We are in a state of anarchy. To make mattersworse, the assembly has discovered there is no gold in theState Treasury; the king has bankrupted the State. In Paris itis believed that he will not live out the year.”A shock ran through the rows of seated nuns, and therewas agitated whispering throughout the room. Mireillesqueezed Valentine’s hand gently as they both stared at thespeaker. The women in this room had never heard suchthoughts expressed aloud, and they could not conceive suchthings as real. Torture, anarchy, regicide. How was it possible?The abbess rapped her hand flat upon the table to call fororder, and the nuns fell silent. Now Alexandrine took herseat, and Sister Charlotte stood alone at the table. Her voicewas strong and forceful.“In the assembly there is a man of great evil. He is hungryfor power, though he calls himself a member of the clergy.This man is the Bishop of Autun.Within the Church at Romeit is believed he is the Devil incarnate. It is claimed he wasborn with a cloven hoof, the mark of the Devil, thathe drinks the blood of small children to appear young, that hecelebrates the Black Mass. In October this bishop proposedto the assembly that the State confiscate all Church property.On November second his Bill of Seizure was defended beforethe Assembly by the great statesman Mirabeau, and itpassed. On February thirteenth the confiscation began. Anyclergy who resisted were arrested and jailed. And on Februarysixteenth, the Bishop of Autun was elected president ofthe Assembly. Nothing can stop him now.”The nuns were in a state of extreme agitation, their voicesraised in fearful exclamations and protests, but Charlotte’svoice carried above all.“Long before the Bill of Seizure, the Bishop of Autun hadmade inquiries into the location of the Church’s wealth inFrance. Though the bill specifies that priests are to fall firstand nuns to be spared, we know the bishop has cast his eyeupon Montglane Abbey. It is around Montglane that many ofhis inquiries have centered. This, we have hastened here totell you. The treasure of Montglane must not fall into hishands.”The abbess stood and placed her hand upon the strongshoulder of Charlotte Corday. She looked out over the rowsof black-clad nuns, their stiff starched hats moving like a seathick with wild seagulls beneath her, and she smiled. Thiswas her flock, which she had shepherded for so long andwhich she might not see again in her lifetime once she hadrevealed what she now must tell.“Now you know as much of our situation as I,” said theabbess. “Though I have known for many months of ourplight, I did not wish to alarm you until I had chosen a path.In their journey responding to my call, our sisters from Caenhave confirmed my worst fears.” The nuns had now falleninto a silence like the hush of death. Not a sound could beheard but the voice of the abbess.“I am an old woman who will perhaps be called to Godsooner than she imagines. The vows I took when I enteredthe service of this convent were not only vows to Christ.Nearly forty years ago upon becoming Abbess of Montglane,I vowed to keep a secret, to preserve it with my life ifnecessary. Now the time has come for me to keep that vow.But in doing so, I must share some of the secret with each ofyou and vow you to secrecy in return. My story is long, andyou must have patience if I am slow in telling. When I havefinished, you will know why each of us must do what must bedone.”The abbess paused to take a sip of water from a silverchalice that sat before her on the table. Then she resumed.“Today is the fourth day of April, Anno Domini 1790.My story begins on another fourth of April many years ago.The tale was told me by my predecessor, as it was told byeach abbess to her successor on the event of her initiation,for as many years as this abbey has stood. And now I tell it toyou. . . .”The Abbess’s TaleOn the fourth of April in the year 782, a wondrous festivalwas held at the Oriental Palace at Aachen to honor the fortiethbirthday of the great King Charlemagne. He had calledforth all the nobles of his empire. The central court with itsmosaic dome and tiered circular staircases and balconieswas filled with imported palms and festooned with flowergarlands. Harps and lutes were played in the large halls amidgold and silver lanterns. The courtiers, decked in purple,crimson, and gold, moved through a fairyland of jugglers,jesters, and puppet shows. Wild bears, lions, giraffes, andcages of doves were brought into the courtyard. All was merrimentfor weeks in anticipation of the king’s birthday.The pinnacle of the festival was the day itself. On themorning of this day the king arrived in the main courtyardsurrounded by his eighteen children, his queen, and his favoritecourtiers. Charlemagne was exceedingly tall, with thelean grace of a horseman and swimmer. His skin was tanned,his hair and mustache streaked blond with the sun. Helooked every inch the warrior and ruler of the largest kingdomin the world. Dressed in a simple woolen tunic with aclose-fitting coat of marten skins and wearing his ever-presentsword, he passed through the court greeting each of hissubjects and bidding them partake of the lavish refreshmentsthat were placed on groaning boards about the hall.The king had prepared a special treat for this day. A masterof battle strategy, he had a special fondness for one game.Known as the game of war, the game of kings, it was thegame of chess. On this, his fortieth birthday, Charlemagneproposed to play against the best chess player in his kingdom,a soldier known as Garin the Frank.Garin entered the courtyard with blaring trumpets. Acrobatsbounced before him, young women strewed palm frondsand rose petals in his path. Garin was a slender, pale youngman with serious countenance and gray eyes, a soldier in thewestern army. He knelt when the king rose to greet him.The chess service was borne into the great hall on theshoulders of eight black servants dressed in Moorish livery.These men, and the chessboard they carried aloft, had beensent as a gift of Ibn-al-Arabi, the Moslem governor ofBarcelona, in thanks for the king’s aid against the PyreneesBasques four years earlier. It was during retreat from this famousbattle, at the Roncesvalles Pass in Navarre, that theking’s beloved soldier Hruoland had been killed, hero of the“Chanson de Roland.” As a result of this unhappy association,the king had never played upon the chess service, norbrought it before his people.The court marveled at the magnificent chess service as itwas set upon a table in the courtyard. Though made by Arabicmaster craftsmen, the pieces bore traces of their Indianand Persian ancestry. For some believed this game existed inIndia over four hundred years before the birth of Christ andcame into Arabia through Persia during the Arabic conquestof that country in 640 A.D.The board, wrought entirely of silver and gold, measured afull meter on each side. The pieces of filigreed precious metalswere studded with rubies, sapphires, diamonds, andemeralds, uncut but smoothly polished, some the size ofquails’ eggs. Flashing and sparkling in the lamplight of thecourtyard, they seemed to glow with an inner light that hypnotizedthe beholder.The piece called Shah, or King, was fifteen centimetershigh and depicted a crowned man riding upon the back of anelephant. The Queen, or Ferz, was seated within a coveredsedan chair embroidered with jewels. The Bishops were elephantswith saddles encrusted in rare gems; the Knights werewild Arabian steeds. The Rooks, or Castles, were calledRukhkh, the Arabic word for “chariot”; these were largecamels with towerlike chairs upon their backs. The pawns, orpeons, as we call them now, were humble foot soldiers sevencentimeters high with small jewels for eyes and gems fleckingthe hilts of their swords.Charlemagne and Garin approached the board from eitherside. Then the king, raising his hand aloft, spoke words thatastounded those of the court who knew him well.“I propose a wager,” he said in a strange voice. Charleswas not a man for wagers. The courtiers glanced at one anotheruneasily.“Should my soldier Garin win a game of me, I bestowupon him that portion of my kingdom from Aachen to theBasque Pyrenees and the hand of my eldest daughter in marriage.Should he lose, he will be beheaded in this same courtyardat dawn.”The court was in commotion. It was known that the kingso loved his daughters that he had begged them never tomarry during his lifetime.The king’s dearest friend, the Duke of Burgundy, seizedhim by the arm and drew him aside. “What manner of wageris this?” he whispered. “You have proposed a wager befittinga sottish barbarian!”Charles seated himself at the table. He appeared to be in atrancelike state. The duke was mystified. Garin was himselfconfused. He looked into the duke’s eyes, then without aword took his place at the board, accepting the wager. Thepieces were selected, and as luck would have it, Garin chosewhite, giving him the advantage of the first move. The gamebegan.Perhaps it was the tension of the situation, but it appearedas the game progressed that the two players moved theirpieces with a force and precision that transcended a meregame, as if another, an invisible hand, hovered above theboard. At times it even seemed as if the very pieces carriedout the moves of their own accord. The players themselveswere silent and pale, and the courtiers hovered about themlike ghosts.After nearly one hour of play the Duke of Burgundy observedthat the king was acting strangely. His brow was furrowed,and he seemed inattentive and distracted. Garin toowas possessed by an unusual restlessness, his movementsquick and jerking, his forehead beaded in cold sweat. Theeyes of the two men were fixed upon the board as if theycould not look away.Suddenly Charles leaped to his feet with a cry, upsettingthe board and knocking all the pieces to the floor. Thecourtiers pushed back to open the circle. The king had flowninto a black and horrible rage, tearing at his hair and beatinghis chest like a wild beast. Garin and the Duke of Burgundyrushed to his side, but he knocked them away. It required sixnobles to restrain the king. When at last he was subdued, helooked about in bewilderment, as if he had just awakenedfrom a long sleep.“My lord,” said Garin softly, picking up one of the piecesfrom the floor and handing it to the king, “perhaps we shouldwithdraw from this game. The pieces are all in disarray, andI cannot recall a single move that was made. Sire, I fear thisMoorish chess service. I believe it is possessed by an evilforce that compelled you to make a wager upon my life.”Charlemagne, resting upon a chair, put one hand wearilyto his forehead but did not speak.“Garin,” said the Duke of Burgundy cautiously, “youknow that the king does not believe in superstitions of thissort, thinking them pagan and barbaric. He has forbiddennecromancy and divination at the court–”Charlemagne interrupted, but his voice was weak as iffrom strenuous exhaustion. “How can I bring the Christianenlightenment to Europe when soldiers in my own army believein witchcraft?”“This magic has been practiced in Arabia and throughoutthe East from the beginning of time,” Garin replied. “I do notbelieve in it, nor do I understand it. But”–Garin bent overthe king and looked into his eyes–“you felt it, too.”“I was consumed by the rage of fire,” Charlemagne admitted.“I could not control myself. I felt as one feels upon themorn of battle just as the troops are charging into the fray. Icannot explain it.”But all things of heaven and of earth have a reason,” saida voice from behind the shoulder of Garin. He turned, andthere stood a black Moor, one of the eight who had borne thechess service into the room. The king nodded for the Moor tocontinue.“From our Watar, or birthplace, come an ancient peoplecalled the Badawi, the ‘dwellers in the desert.’Among thesepeoples, the blood wager is considered the most honorable.It is said that only the blood wager will remove the Habb, theblack drop in the human heart which the archangel Gabrielremoved from the breast of Muhammed. Your Highness hasmade a blood wager over the board, a wager upon a man’slife, the highest form of justice. Muhammed says, ‘Kingdomendureth with Kufr, infidelity to al-Islam, but Kingdom endurethnot with Zulm, which is injustice.”“A wager of blood is always a wager of evil,” repliedCharlemagne. Garin and the Duke of Burgundy looked at theking in surprise, for had he not himself proposed such awager only an hour before?“No!” said the Moor stubbornly. “Through the bloodwager one can attain Ghutah, the earthly oasis which is Paradise.If one makes such a wager over the board of Shatranj,it is the Shatranj itself that carries out the Sar!”“Shatranj is the name that the Moors give to the game ofchess, my lord,” said Garin.“And what is ‘Sar’?” asked Charlemagne, rising slowly tohis feet. He towered over everyone around him.“It is revenge,” replied the Moor without expression. Hebowed and stepped back from the king.“We will play again,” the king announced. “This time,there will be no wagers. We play for love of a simple game.There is nothing to these foolish superstitions invented bybarbarians and children.” The courtiers began to set up theboard again. There were murmurs of relief coursing throughthe room. Charles turned to the Duke of Burgundy and tookhis arm.“Did I really make such a wager?” he said softly.The duke looked at him in surprise. “Why, yes, my lord,”he said. “Do you not remember it?”“No,” the king replied sadly.Charlemagne and Garin sat down to play again.After a remarkablebattle, Garin emerged victorious. The king awardedhim the property of Montglane in the Bas-Pyrenees and thetitle of Garin de Montglane. So pleased was the king withGarin’s masterful command of chess that he offered to buildhim a fortress to protect the territory he had won.After manyyears, the king sent Garin the special gift of the marvelouschess service upon which they had played their famous game.It was called ever after “the Montglane Service.” “THAT IS THE STORY OF MONGTLANEABBEY,” THE ABBESS SAID,concluding her tale. She looked across the sea of silent nuns.“For after many years, when Garin de Montglane lay ill anddying, he bequeathed to the Church his territory of Montglane,the fortress which was to become our abbey, and alsothe famous chess set called the Montglane Service.”The abbess paused a moment, as if uncertain whether toproceed. At last she spoke again.“But Garin had always believed that there was a terriblecurse connected with the Montglane Service. Long before itpassed into his hands he had heard rumors of evils associatedwith it. It was said that Charlot, Charlemagne’s own nephew,had been murdered during a game played upon this veryboard. There were strange stories of bloodshed and violence,even of wars, in which this service had played a part.“The eight black Moors who had first conveyed the servicefrom Barcelona into Charlemagne’s keeping had beggedto accompany the pieces when they passed over to Montglane.And so the king had permitted. Soon Garin learnedthat mysterious night ceremonies were being conductedwithin the fortress, rituals in which he felt certain the Moorshad been involved. Garin grew to fear his prize as if it werea tool of the Devil. He had the service buried within thefortress, and asked Charlemagne to place a curse upon thewall to guard against its ever being removed. The king behavedas though it were a jest, but he complied with Garin’swish in his own fashion, and thus we find the inscription overour doors today.”The abbess stopped and, looking weak and pale, reachedfor the chair behind her. Alexandrine stood and helped theabbess to her seat.“And what became of the Montglane Service, ReverendMother?” asked one of the older nuns who was seated in thefront row.The abbess smiled. “I have told you already that our livesare in great danger if we remain in this abbey. I have told youthat the soldiers of France seek to confiscate the treasures ofthe Church and are, in fact, abroad in that mission even now.I have told you further that a treasure of great value and perhapsgreat evil was once buried within the walls of thisabbey. So it should come as no surprise to you if I reveal thatthe secret I was sworn to hold in my bosom when first I tookthis office was the secret of the Montglane Service. It is stillburied within the walls and floor of this room, and I aloneknow the precise location of each piece. It is our mission, mydaughters, to remove this tool of evil, to scatter it as far andwide as possible, that it may never again be assembled intothe hands of one seeking power. For it contains a force thattranscends the law of nature and the understanding of man.“But even had we time to destroy these pieces or to defacethem beyond recognition, I would not choose that path.Something with so great a power may also be used as an inthestrument of good. That is why I am sworn not only to keepthe Montglane Service hidden, but to protect it. Perhaps oneday, when history permits it, we shall reassemble the piecesand reveal their dark mystery.” ALTHOUGH THE ABBESS KNEW THE PRECISE LOCATION OF EACHpiece, it required the effort of every nun in the abbey fornearly two weeks before the Montglane Service was exhumedand the pieces cleaned and polished. It required fournuns to lift the board loose from the stone floor. When it hadbeen cleaned, it was found to contain strange symbols thathad been cut or embossed into each square. Similar symbolshad been carved into the bottom of each chess piece. Alsothere was a cloth that had been kept in a large metal box. Thecorners of the box had been sealed with a waxy substance,no doubt to prevent mildew. The cloth was of midnight bluevelvet and heavily embroidered with gold thread and jewelsin signs that resembled the zodiac. In the center of the clothwere two swirled, snakelike figures twined together to formthe number 8. The abbess believed that this cloth had beenused to cover the Montglane Service so that it would not bedamaged when transported.Near the end of the second week the abbess told the nunsto prepare themselves for travel. She would instruct each, inprivate, regarding where she would be sent so that none ofthe nuns would know the location of the others. This wouldreduce the risk to each. As the Montglane Service containedfewer pieces than the number of nuns at the abbey, no onebut the abbess would know which of the sisters had carriedaway a portion of the service and which had not.When Valentine and Mireille were called into the study,the abbess was seated behind her massive writing desk andbade them take a seat opposite her. There on the desk lay thegleaming Montglane Service, partly draped with its embroideredcloth of midnight blue.The abbess laid aside her pen and looked up. Mireille andValentine sat hand in hand, waiting nervously.“Reverend Mother,” Valentine blurted out, “I want you toknow that I shall miss you very much now that I am to goaway, and I realize that I have been a grievous burden to you.I wish I could have been a better nun and caused you lesstrouble–”“Valentine,” said the abbess, smiling as Mireille pokedValentine in the ribs to silence her. “What is it you wish tosay? You fear you will be separated from your cousinMireille–is that what is causing these belated apologies?”Valentine stared in amazement, wondering how the abbesshad read her thoughts.“I shouldn’t be concerned,” continued the abbess. Shehanded Mireille a sheet of paper across the cherry wooddesk. “This is the name and address of the guardian who willbe responsible for your care, and beneath it I’ve printed thetraveling instructions I have arranged for you both.”“Both!” cried Valentine, barely able to remain in her seat.“Oh, Reverend Mother, you have fulfilled my fondest wish!”The abbess laughed. “If I did not send you together,Valentine,I feel certain you would single-handedly find a way todestroy all the plans I’ve carefully arranged, only to remainat your cousin’s side. Besides, I have good reason to sendyou off together. Listen closely. Each nun at this abbey hasbeen provided for. Those whose families accept them backwill be sent to their homes. In some cases I’ve found friendsor remote relatives to provide them shelter. If they came tothe abbey with dowries, I return these monies to them fortheir care and safekeeping. If no funds are available, I sendthe young woman to an abbey of good faith in another country.In all cases, travel and living expenses will be providedto ensure the well-being of my daughters.” The abbess foldedher hands and proceeded. “But you are fortunate in severalrespects, Valentine,” she said. “Your grandfather has left youa generous income, which I earmark for both you and yourcousin Mireille. In addition, though you have no family, youhave a godfather who has accepted responsibility for youboth. I have received written assurance of his willingness toact in your behalf. This brings me to my second point, anissue of grave concern.”Mireille had glanced at Valentine when the abbess spokeof a godfather, and now she looked down at the paper in herhand, where the abbess had printed in bold letters, “M.Jacques-Louis David, Painter,” with an address beneath it, inParis. She had not known Valentine had a godfather.“I realize,” the abbess went on, “when it is learned I’veclosed the abbey, there will be those in France who will behighly displeased. Many of us will be in danger, specificallyfrom men such as the Bishop of Autun, who will wish toknow what we have pried from the walls and carried awaywith us. You see, the traces of our activities cannot completelybe covered. There may be women who are sought outand found. It may be necessary for them to flee. Because ofthis, I have selected eight of us, each of whom will have apiece of the service but who also will serve as collectionpoints where the others may leave behind a piece if theymust flee. Or leave directions how to find it. Valentine, youwill be one of the eight.”“I!” saidValentine. She swallowed hard, for her throat hadsuddenly become very dry. “But Reverend Mother, I amnot . . . I do not . . .”“What you try to say is that you are scarcely a pillar of responsibility,” said the abbess, smiling despite herself. “I amaware of this, and I rely upon your sober cousin to assist mewith that problem.” She looked at Mireille, and the latternodded her assent.“I have selected the eight not only with regard for their capabilities,”the abbess continued, “but for their strategicplacement.Your godfather, M. David, lives in Paris, the heartof the chessboard which is France. As a famous artist, hecommands the respect and friendship of the nobility, but heis also a member of the Assembly and is considered by someto be a fervent revolutionary. I believe him to be in a positionto protect you both in case of need. And I have paid himamply for your care to provide him a motive to do so.”The abbess peered across the table at the two youngwomen. “This is not a request, Valentine,” she said sternly.“Your sisters may be in trouble, and you will be in a positionto serve them. I have given your name and address to somewho have already departed for their homes. You will go toParis and do as I say.You have fifteen years, enough to knowthat there are things in life more crucial than the gratificationof your immediate wishes.” The abbess spoke harshly, butthen her face softened as it always did when she looked atValentine. “Besides, Paris is not so bad a place of sentence,”she added.Valentine smiled back at the abbess. “No, ReverendMother,” she agreed. “There is the opera, for one thing, andperhaps there will be parties, and the ladies, they say, wearsuch beautiful gowns–” Mireille punched Valentine in theribs again. “I mean, I humbly thank the Reverend Mother forplacing such faith in her devout servant.” At this, the abbessburst into a merry peal of laughter that belied her years.“Very well,Valentine.You may both go and pack.You willleave tomorrow at dawn. Don’t be tardy.” Rising, the abbesslifted two heavy pieces from the board and handed them tothe novices.Valentine and Mireille in turn kissed the abbess’s ring andwith great care conveyed their rare possessions to the door ofthe study. As they were about to depart, Mireille turned andspoke for the first time since they had entered the room.“If I may ask, Reverend Mother,” she said, “where willyou be going?We should like to think of you and send goodwishes to you wherever you may be.”“I am departing on a journey that I have longed to take forover forty years,” the abbess replied. “I have a friend whomI’ve not visited since childhood. In those days–you know, attimes Valentine reminds me very much of this childhoodfriend of mine. I remember her as being so vibrant, so full oflife. . . .” The abbess paused, and Mireille thought that if sucha thing could be said of so stately a person, the abbess lookedwistful.“Does your friend live in France, Reverend Mother?” sheasked. “No,” replied the abbess. “She lives in Russia.” THE FOLLOWING MORNING, IN THE DIM GRAY LIGHT, TWO WOMEN dressed in traveling clothes left the Abbey of Montglane andclimbed into a wagon filled with hay. The wagon passedthrough the massive gates and started across the back bowlsof the mountains. A light mist rose, obscuring them fromview as they passed down into the far valley.They were frightened and, drawing their capes aboutthemselves, felt thankful that they were on a mission of Godas they reentered the world from which they had so longbeen sheltered.But it was not God who watched them silently from themountaintop as the wagon slowly descended into the darknessof the valley floor below. High on a snow-capped peakabove the abbey sat a solitary rider astride a pale horse. Hewatched until the wagon had vanished into the dark mist.Then he turned his horse without a sound and rode away.

From Our Editors

When two young women in France of 1790 discover the Montglane Chess Service in Montglane Abbey, they recognize its mystic ability to provide anyone playing it with unlimited power and desperately scatter its pieces around the world. But in 1972, computer expert Catherine "Cat" Velis is hired to recover the chess pieces--and is caught up in a nefarious, globe-spanning conspiracy. Reissue.

Editorial Reviews

“Readers thrilled by The Da Vinci Code will relish the multi-layered secrets of The Eight.”—MATTHEW PEARL, author of The Dante Club“A BIG, RICH, TWO-TIERED CONFECTION OF A NOVEL . . . A ROUSING, AMUSING GAME.”—San Francisco Chronicle“A fascinating piece of entertainment that manages to be both vibrant and cerebral . . . Few will find it resistible.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review“With alchemical skill, Neville blends modern romance, historical fiction, and medieval mystery . . . and comes up with gold.”—PeopleFrom the Trade Paperback edition.