Melisande first enters the narrative when she is 23 and Phèdre nó Delaunay is thirteen; they are introduced by Phèdre's keeper Anafiel Delaunay, Melisande's sometime friend and long-ago lover. She is one of the few people to identify Phèdre as an anguissette at first glance. Phèdre likewise immediately knows her as a scion of Kushiel, and describes her as having "a mind as subtle as Delaunay's, and a far colder heart". She is exceedingly wealthy, having not only the wealth of House Shahrizai, but that of two dead husbands as well. She weds first at age sixteen and again at nineteen, with considerable mystery surrounding both deaths.
She takes Baudoin de Trevalion as a lover when she is in her twenties, only to betray him and his family later. Before she assists in getting him arrested for high treason, Melisande first throws him a birthday party, contracting all of Cereus House for a night, and then buys him a night with Phèdre as a farewell gift.
Melisande contracts Phèdre for herself for a Midwinter Masque held on the eve of what would be known as the Bitterest Winter. She parades Phèdre before the nobles of Terre d'Ange, having her wear a gown of only white gauze studded with diamonds, and a velvet slip-collar with a diamond teardrop suspended from it and a lead attached. Phèdre loses herself entirely to Melisande that night, and when Melisande uses flechettes on her, she gives her signale for the first time. She gifts Phèdre with the ruins of the gauze-and-diamond gown, providing her with enough money to complete her marque.
When Phèdre and Joscelin try to reach Ysandre de la Courcel following the murders of Anafiel Delaunay and Alcuin nó Delaunay, they encounter Melisande in the Palace, who takes them to her own quarters. Melisande betrays them, drugging Joscelin and sexually tormenting Phèdre in order to find out what she knew, before drugging her as well. Melisande sends Phèdre and Joscelin to be sold to the Skaldi as slaves, and they are taken past the borders of Camlach into Skaldi territory.
It is Melisande who assists Waldemar Selig in betraying Isidore d'Aiglemort, and a letter from her to him is the impetus for Phèdre to finally make her escape from the Skaldi and return to Terre d'Ange to warn the Queen. When Phèdre explains the matter to Ysandre, she realizes that Melisande isn't playing for stakes or victory, but rather for sheer love of politics, the deadly game of thrones.
When Phèdre next sees Melisande it is at a Tsingani horse fair in Kusheth. Phèdre nearly panics, fearing Melisande will see her and feeling drawn to her at the same time, until Hyacinthe interrupts, speaking the dromonde to assure Phèdre that Melisande will pass by her and see nothing.
Melisande disappears during the war, and is brought to Ysandre's justice by the Duc de Morhban after being sold out by her own kinsmen, Marmion and Persia. Initially Melisande denies all the charges put against her, until Ysandre surprises her with Phèdre, who steps forward to accuse Melisande, throwing at her feet the large diamond collar she gifted to Phèdre on that Longest Night and which Phèdre has kept throughout her travels.
Ysandre sentences Melisande to die at dawn; Melisande requests for Phèdre to visit her in her cell during the night. In that conversation, she reveals that rather than allowing Selig to rule Terre d'Ange, she instead intended him to die after less than a year, allowing her to seize control of Skaldia as well as Terre d'Ange. Phèdre leaves her and spends the night alone on the battlements of the city, only to discover later that Melisande somehow escaped her cell before daybreak.
Kushiel's Dart ends with the arrival of a mysterious gift at Montrève, the Comtesse Phèdre nó Delaunay's quiet country estate. Kushiel's Chosen picks up immediately after an Italian merchant and former acquaintance presents Phèdre with her sangoire cloak, last worn when she was betrayed by Melisande. Phèdre takes it upon herself to find out how Melisande escaped from Troyes-le-Mont. Finding only dead ends, however, Phèdre decides to travel to La Serenissima in Caerdicca Unitas, in order to track down the missing guardsmen of Troyes-le-Mont.
Phèdre learns that Prince Benedicte de la Courcel has re-married. His wife is a D'Angeline woman whose entire family died in the war with Skaldia. She has taken the veil of Asherat-of-the-Sea, the religion of La Serenissima, as a symbol of her constant mourning of their loss. She and Benedicte de la Courcel have a new-born son together and both live in "The Litte Court" - the Terre D'Ange Embassy and residences in La Serenissima. Phèdre also learns from Prince Benedicte's children that his marriage abroad has made him bitter. He dislikes that Queen Ysandre will taint the royal blood-line with Cruithne blood and sees all non-pure-D'Angelines as barbaric and inferior.
Upon realizing some crucial information, Phèdre decides to go and tell the Prince Benedicte de la Courcel what she has learned and that there may be a plot against the Queen. In this private meeting at the "Little Court" Prince Benedicte's wife is present and finally removes her veil; revealing herself to be Melisande! Melisande tells Phèdre that she will kill Queen Ysandre when she comes to tour Caerdicca Unitas later in the summer. This will mean that Benedicte de la Courcel, as the next member of the royal house, will inherit the throne. Prince Benedicte will then declare his pure-blooded D'Angeline son as heir to the throne, thereby purifying royal blood-line. In order to stop anyone from refusing their rule, Melisande has also blackmailed the Duc Percy de Somerville and his men to support them with military force. In order to kill Queen Ysandre, Melisande has also gotten one of the Cassiline royal guards to kill Ysandre in retribution for Ysandre's mother, Isabel L'Envers allegedly killing his sister, the previous wife of Prince Rolande, Edmée de Rocaille.
Phèdre's discovery makes Melisande send her to the prison on the island of La Dolorosa, where the mourning of Asherat-of-the-Sea will eventually drive her mad. During her imprisonment, Melisande visits her and offers her a new prison: her own personal dungeon. Phèdre is left one night to contemplate the prospect when the alarm is raised. The island fortress is being attacked by Joscelin Verreuil, in an attempt to save Phèdre, who is forced off a cliff and presumed dead. (see Kushiel's Chosen for Phèdre's story from this point.)
Phèdre nó Delaunay is rescued by pirates and suggests to them that they can ransom her to the D'Angeline throne. The pirates try this but are intercepted by La Serenissima patrols, told to watch for Phèdre. The patrols then take half of the crew hostage and send the others back with a meeting date to trade over Phèdre. The pirates, after getting their own crew back, then betray them and do not give Phèdre over. The pirates manage to escape but Phèdre is considered trapped in Epidauro. Phèdre manages to get herself smuggled back into La Serenissima as well as sending word to Barquiel L'Envers, using the word of his house (given by Nicola L'Envers) to close the City of Elua so that it can not be taken by treason while Ysandre is in La Serenissima. Phèdre also finds Joscelin Verreuil, who manages to kill the assassin-Cassiline before he murders the Queen. Prince Benedicte de la Courcel dies in the process and Melisande is revealed. Melisande is not arrested or killed, however, as the temple of Asherat has given her sanctuary. Her son, however, is no where to be found.
In the Temple, Ysandre de la Courcel sets up a meeting with Melisande. Melisande is treated as a Queen in the Temple and meets with Ysandre as an equal.
Ysandre offers to raise Imriel as is his proper due and as her own child. Ysandre says she is doing this for the good of the realm. Melisande replies, "Indeed. Is it in the interests of the realm that a single monarch hold the throne? Blessed Elua did not think so; 'twas his Companions who parceled the realm in jealous pieces. You seek to hold a prize given you by accident of birth, Ysandre de la Courcel. I seek to claim it by right of the wits with which I was born. Even the Doges of La Serenissima can point to the mandate of popular election to justify their power. Do not tell me you do not play my game."
Ysandre replies that her offer stands and that she does not play Melisande's game. Melisande refuses saying that if Ysandre took her son, she would hate her for it and become her enemy. Ysandre replies that she already hates Melisande and sees her as an enemy and, that by the love of a mother, Melisande should not allow her son to be a pawn for people worse than her in the future. Melisande refusely harsly saying, "Do not presume to teach me love!"
Melisande replies that she has never seen Ysandre as an enemy and that Ysandre should be grateful for this. Melisande states that, had she wanted Ysandre dead, she could have used David de Rocaille at any time in the past two years. She didn't because she understands, even if Ysandre does not, that it has all been a game - a game for the throne. She could not kill Ysandre unless she could win the throne after.
During this time, Melisande places a hand on the one remaining Cassiline guard, who is shaking and blushing and nervous. Joscelin then steps in and tells her to stop, drawing his sword. Melisande tells him that, if he kills her, he will loose Phedre's affections forever. Everyone looks to Phèdre's reaction, who yells at them all to sit down. No one does but Melisande backs off.
Phèdre then offers herself to Melisande if she will give over the boy. Melisande refuses. Phèdre then asks the Queen if she wants her advice. Ysandre accepts. Phèdre tells her that she will get nothing from Melisande. She should go home and save the realm instead. Ysandre accepts.
But all is not yet solved and Melisande had a contingency plan. Melisande has sent riders on fast horses to secure the City of Elua and set about rumors that Ysandre is dead. Because Barquiel L'Envers has closed the city, thanks to Phèdre's command and unknown by Melisande, the city can not be taken but all of its surrounding area is. Ysandre rushes back to the City of Elua and disproves the rumors that she is dead and manage to reclaim Terre d'Ange.
Knowing Phèdre to be loyal to the throne, Melisande offers her a deal: if Phèdre will promise to find Imriel, Melisande will give her the location of the lost tribe of Dan, whose elders know the Name of the One God, allowing Phèdre to free Hyacinthe of his terrible burden. She must also promise to look for Imriel first, before going on her quest for the name of god. Phèdre accepts.
Melisande reveals that Imriel has been hidden in an isolated Temple of Elua in Siovale, raised having no knowledge that he is a royal prince and believing that his parents are dead. In return, she gives Phèdre an old document that tells the story of the passage of the lost tribe of Dan. Upon translation, it reveals that the lost tribe of Dan should be in Saba.
Phèdre does find Prince Imriel and rescues him from slavery in Drujan, where he was horribly treated. In Khebbel-im-Akkad, Imriel learns his true identity as a royal prince. He also learns from the guards that his parents are great traitors of the realm, had a hand in the death of many people, and that his mother is living under the sanctuary of Asherat-of-the-Sea. Knowing this he now hates who he is and especially his mother. Phèdre, however, talks to him and tells her a kinder version of his parents, though she can not deny what they did.
Imriel, instead of traveling to Terre d'Ange immediately, stows away on Phèdre and Joscelin's ship, headed to Menekhet in their quest for the name of god. Upon their return more than six months later, Phèdre takes Imriel to La Serenissima to meet his mother, before continuing to Terre d'Ange.
At that visit, Melisande sees that Phèdre, Joscelin, and Imriel have bonded as a family. Phèdre convinces Imriel to talk to his mother but instead he spits on the ground and tells her how he is ashamed of her. Phèdre then has a private meeting with her, filled with sympathy and that constant pull of attraction. Melisande then asks a promise of Phèdre, that Phèdre would raise Imriel in her household, instead of Ysandre's. Phèdre agrees but not without a promise from Melisande, that Melisande will never raise a finger against Queen Ysandre's daughters and will never use any form of trickery against the D'Angeline throne.
Melisande's role in this novel is that of a background character but who you suspect is silently and secretively controlling much of what occurs in the novel.
The first book in this series begins with Imriel de la Courcel, at age fourteen, learning that his mother, Melisande Shahrizai has vanished from the Temple of the Asherat-of-the-Sea in La Serenissima. Instead of spending his summer at Montrève, he is summoned to court, where he meets his Shahrizai kin, who will foster with him come the following summer. The Queen is convinced that Imriel has not been told or given any information from his mother as to where she is.
After Imriel turns 18, he leaves for the University of Tiberium, in Caerdicca Unitas, accompanied by Gilot from House Montrève. There Imriel hides his princely status and lives in a very questionable area of Tiberium. He shares his building with many families and there is a friendly homeless philosopher, Canis, who lives in front of his place. Canis gives Imriel a necklace with the symbol of lighthouse which signifies a philosophy school, telling him to wear it, which Imriel humours him by wearing.
At the university, Imriel asks around about where one might learn the arts of covertcy, in the hopes of finding out who taught Anafiel Delaunay (and likely Melisande as well). This leads him to eventually have a heady affair with Claudia Fulvia and the revelation of the existence of the Unseen Guild. Claudia reveals to him that she has the status of journeyman in the Unseen Guild and that her job is to try to get him to join the Guild. She reveals that Delaunay had been asked as well but that he had refused because he would have to swear loyalty to the Guild, which would supersede his loyalty to Prince Rolande.
After a riot, Gilot is badly injured and Imriel takes him to the Temple of Asclepius for healing. There he is told that the necklace that Canis has given him has secret writing on the side of it, indicating that he is protected. He also learns that the symbol on it is in fact that of the Unseen Guild and not the philosophical school of thought. When Imriel returns to his apartment Canis can not be found.
After other events in the novel (see Kushiel's Scion), Imriel finds himself sieged inside the city of Lucca. There Canis bizzarely appears and helps with the forces fighting the siege. During the siege, Canis saves Imriel's life by jumping in the way of a thrown spear that would have surely killed Imriel otherwise. While dying he tells Imriel that "your mother loves you". Imriel takes this to confirm that Canis was not really a philosopher but a member of the Unseen Guild sent by Melisande to guard Imriel.
Melisande does not make any significant appearance or have any obvious influence in this novel. She is still missing and, most likely, watching over her son, Imriel de la Courcel, in some fashion. While there are some minor references to the Unseen Guild, the majority of this novel is about Imriel and his internal quest(s).
Coming June 2008.